Nagasaki Media

Kendo’s Healing Message for May

For many years Kendo has advocated Buddhist ‘Zazen’ meditation as an excellent means for achieving peace, gaining wisdom, and finding inspiration. It was a gift to the young Peter Thornley from his sensei, Kenshiro Abbe, it completely transformed his life for the better, and, of course, it led to the emergence of Kendo Nagasaki.

But Abbe also imparted something more, an additional technique to be used with meditation, and – unsurprisingly – he communicated it as a Zen koan! That technique was Kyu Shin Do, which adds the ability to gain perspective on all aspects of life; where pure meditation is a ‘pure’ approach to peace and enlightenment, seeking the peace of Zen in the context of Kyu Shin Do is an ‘applied’ approach to being the best you can be, the highest Buddhist aspiration, and it rapidly yields positive results.

If you use Kyu Shin Do as you meditate, you will almost unconsciously take successive steps towards self-improvement. In his youth, Peter Thornley was wild, unfocussed, and not remotely pro-social, but as Kyu Shin Do began to take effect, he visualised the glorious spectacle of Kendo Nagasaki and his primary message: “The world is hugely challenging – if you wish to learn and grow and gain strength from meeting each challenge, you need to be as focussed, disciplined, and determined as Kendo Nagasaki. Then your life will shine, and you will inspire others.”

As they say, the rest is history, but what is not as widely known is that out of the wrestling ring, Peter Thornley quietly became a healer, setting-up a word-of-mouth clinic in his own home, using ‘Katsu’ or ‘Judo Healing’ to ease people’s physical pains and instructing them in meditation so they could gain peace, strength, and confidence to improve their own lives and the lives of all around them. Kyu Shin Do had liberated this vision within Peter on how to apply his physical prowess and strength of character, passing-on the flame of enlightenment and empowerment, as-it-were, like a flame from candle to candle, person to person. Kyu Shin Do manifesting itself is a powerful way to ‘pay it forward’, to really be a force for good in the world, without even thinking about it, and the ‘Kendo’s Day Care’ facility continues Peter’s own work in this vein to this day, giving adults with learning disabilities the chance to experience the peace, healing, and positivity of the Nagasaki Retreat.

Healing is not just something to receive, but is very much within everyone’s power to give. Kendo counsels that in these intensely difficult times, meditation is hugely helpful in escaping the worry which can obscure the wise course of action, and so intuitive guidance on how to cope will certainly come from practising it. But if a Kyu Shin Do context is applied to the problems of the whole of society right now, you broaden your vision to include being inspired on how to become a lightning-rod for positivity and empowerment, perceiving the ways in which you can help, support, and inspire all those around you – your extended family, which is actually the whole of society. Through Kendo, Peter has always done this – so can you.

It was once said, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country”. Kyu Shin Do meditation is the best of all such worlds – it’s a gateway to best managing your immediate situation, as well as acknowledging your strength and skill and seeking how to apply it, in order to be the best you can be, for the highest benefit of your own life, of your family, and by extension, of the whole of society around you. Take this flame from Kendo, burn it brightly, and pass it on!

Kendo’s Healing Message for April

Challenges aren’t supposed to make you miserable, or make you lament your bad luck, but doing either (or both) of these is often a natural and inevitable consequence – after all, challenges tend not to be welcomed, or enjoyable.

As Kendo has previously described, rising to meet one’s challenges requires an openness to one’s wise intuitive self, and this requires not only achieving the peace of Zen, but also a perspective beyond one’s immediate subjective experience of a challenge and how it makes you feel. Kendo goes on to advise that perhaps the first step towards achieving such a perspective is to realise that even the greatest of challenges is, in fact, relative.

Firstly, it’s entirely natural to feel that your greatest challenge is the worst thing in the world. Natural, because a really big challenge represents the extreme peak of negativity experienced in one’s life, the greatest reversal, the greatest discomfort, or even the greatest powerlessness you have ever experienced. Hideous, yes? Indeed, and you have every right to feel sorry for yourself…

But it is a counter-intuitive and reluctantly-contemplated starting-point where the healing properly begins, and that is to accept a perspective of realising that other people have almost certainly experienced worse. Therefore, however bad things feel, your situation is actually only a point on a scale, and you’re only part of the way towards a real challenge.

Kendo clarifies: this is not to diminish your challenge – it’s to help you realise that you still have room to manoeuvre.

There’s also an important aspect of humility to taking this approach. If you’re lucky, you will meet people who are dealing with bigger challenges than you have ever known, and the best of them deal with their situations with astonishing poise and dignity. However those challenges turn out, it will become apparent that approaching them in this most enlightened and disciplined way always leads to the best possible outcome. This is the perspective for which we must fight while our challenges are conspiring to engulf and derail us – we mustn’t give them that power, and if we don’t, we will win, not them.

Of course, as Kendo advises, it all begins with Zen. Set out in pursuit of that peace, cast off all thoughts and feelings, but then apply the devastating tool that is Kyu Shin Do: as you progress deeper towards complete peace, remember your perspective – even in the most challenging of situations, you always have the power of perspective. This cuts your challenge down to size, it amplifies your own strength, and gives you the best foundation for applying the intuitive wisdom you’ll yield from Zen peace.

As Kendo points out, this is the way of the warrior – you are never defeated, and with poise, dignity, clarity, and discipline, you fight the good fight in the most enlightened and most empowered possible way. And to be the best you can be, whilst battling your challenge, remember that the nature of your fight can profoundly inspire others around you; through Zen and Kyu Shin Do, you’ll be ready to pass on the flame of enlightened, empowered, indefatigable strength.

Kendo’s Healing Message for March

Disbelief. Shock. Helplessness. Outrage. It’s rare for such powerful emotions to be so powerfully stimulated, but current events in Ukraine were unexpected and are extraordinarily cruel. It has been said that seeing the suffering of other people helps to put our own lives into perspective, but such comparisons are likely to give rise to another unwelcome negative emotion: guilt. These are genuinely difficult times, even for the uninvolved.

Whilst we care about the suffering of others and do whatever we can to help, how can we deal with the sheer unfairness and all the challenging emotions surrounding the situation the Ukrainian people face? Further, is it even appropriate to seek to feel these things less keenly, to feel less appalled ourselves? Sharing the outrage can feel like a kind of solidarity.

Kendo would point out that this is a classic situation where attempting to rationalise our current strong feelings simply won’t work – it’s beyond the capacity of the mind to do so. He would advise that feeling what we currently feel is entire natural – it’s an empathising response – but emotions of this magnitude can become a big, intractable ‘knot’, trapping us in a static mood of impotent anger. What to do? How to cope?

If ever, now is the time for clarity and wisdom, of knowing how to move beyond our righteous but paralysing reactions – now is the time to seek the counsel of our intuitive selves, and we do so in Zen.

Kendo suggests that because of the sheer magnitude of our feelings right now, it may not be easy – we may need a few goes at stilling the raging torrents and finding the calm waters, within which the wisdom of our intuitive selves is reflected. But we must try. Only our intuitions know how truly capable we are, and if we can do the work of seeking their counsel, they will guide those abilities to the wisest, most positive actions, actions which we likely can’t conceive through our current emotional ‘red mist’.

For every possible benefit, Kendo says let us still the noise, the confusion, the disbelief, and in Zen find calmness, wisdom, and righteous purpose. However counter-intuitive it may seem under the current circumstances, let it all fall away and proceed to a deeply powerful re-boot of our perspectives on this unfamiliar and unfair world. Now is certainly a time for wiser heads to prevail, and we do ourselves, our families, and the whole world the greatest service by seeking to gain such a wise head. Once you’ve done it you’ll appreciate what you’ve gained, but be ready to do it again – these most challenging of times are ready to swamp us emotionally yet again, if we let them.

Seek the peace of Zen – regularly – and let the benefits of the wisdom found therein flow from you.

Kendo’s Healing Message for February

As we try to conduct our everyday lives, there now seem to be many large-scale concerns around us, from Covid to fuel costs and the rising cost of living to the risk of new conflicts between countries, and more – the ‘big picture’ currently seems more onerous than it has felt for some time.

The ‘big picture’ has aptly been called the zeitgeist – the spirit of the age – and while large-scale forces that are beyond our direct control swirl around us, the zeitgeist is undeniably oppressive, but it is still amenable to our positive frames of mind.

As Kendo has observed previously, worry can lead to stress and even insecurity, and if we begin to feel these things, they can add to the generally oppressive air of external events and thus add to a negative colour to the zeitgeist. Kendo advises that succumbing to these feelings should be avoided whenever possible, not only because we have enough to deal with, but because it is enough to have to contemplate the world’s difficulties without coping with additional feelings of fearfulness and negativity.

In such challenging circumstances, Kendo of course recommends that we should meditate. As we cannot have a direct bearing on the large-scale negative forces around us, it makes absolute sense that we should cast off any worries about them. Freeing ourselves from insecurities about the world around us will not only help us achieve a better-balanced sense of emotional well-being, but doing this will liberate our intuitive selves to advance wisdom to help us navigate these times.

Kendo counsels that this is also a highly responsible course of action – by working actively to shrug off bleak feelings, we become the guardians of positivity during challenging times, and thus we change the zeitgeist from being a collection of oppressive events which instil fear and worry to instead be an atmosphere of optimism and encouragement in the face of our challenges. This will yield positive results not just for ourselves, but our entire orbits – everyone we know, and by extension, the wider world. The zeitgeist is no longer a collection of oppressive circumstances, but is instead the positive, encouraging, enabling atmosphere that we choose to make it.

We can all benefit from calmness and optimism amid challenging times; re-booting ourselves through meditation disempowers events beyond our control from oppressing us, and instead empowers us to handle them in the best possible ways, and with the best possible outlook on life, whatever challenges it may hold. Seek and find that peace and strength in Zen.

Kendo’s Healing Message for January

As the hope of a return to a more normal life emerges this new year, Kendo recommends that we pause and think about what sort of life we should return to.

Kendo has observed previously that it has been all too easy to ‘go with the flow’ of consumerism, from buying foodstuffs wrapped in single-use plastics to being tempted to take advantage of low-cost flights to overseas holiday resorts, and unthinkingly engaging in so much more that is bad for our ecosystem. But, we now know that last year was among the hottest ever, that the 2021 climate summit ended with necessary changes to coal use being diluted, and that plastics have become a huge environmental problem.

The healing messages have previously observed that during visits to the Nagasaki Retreat, guests are reminded that they are a part of the majesty of nature, that regardless of how beguiling intellectual pursuits are, our own health and well-being is best served by remembering that we are a part of nature, and not separate from it. Technology is a particularly persuasive distraction, from social media to streaming entertainment services to computer gaming – recalling our fundamental link with nature can easily fade when compared to the richness of mental pleasures.

It has become clear that we can no longer ignore our responsibilities to the natural ecosystem in which we live. It is resilient and forgiving and even self-healing, but it can only withstand so much, and the time has come for us to act in accord with keeping nature itself healthy, as opposed to mindlessly ignoring its needs. After all, we would not subject another beloved person to a constant barrage of toxins and endless demands on their resources – we would be sensitive to their health and well-being, and so it must be for nature itself.

But Kendo would not chastise us for the life-styles we have ended up with – he would simply ask that we expand our awareness to include a concern for the greater ecosystem upon which we are ultimately entirely dependent. This seed of awareness can be likened to an acorn from which mighty oaks grow, and this is the ideal – the more enlightened our approach to the natural world around us, the more we will heal it and ultimately benefit all of humanity.

If any New Year’s Resolution is to be entertained, this should be paramount; as we enter our Kyu Shin Do meditations, the peace of Zen will liberate our intuitive response, which is fundamentally in tune with nature in any event. There’s nothing wrong with intellectual pursuits – they just need to be properly prioritised and not revered over what really matters, as meditation will reveal.

Kendo wishes everyone a healthy and happy 2022 and beyond, as enhanced by meditatively pursuing the peace and intuitive wisdom that can be found in Zen.

Kendo’s Healing Message for December

It has long been Kendo’s mantra that challenges in life exist to be met, to cause us to find previously unknown resources within ourselves, and emerge from meeting our challenges stronger and wiser. But – aren’t our current challenges mounting-up a bit too much?

We approach the end of another year with the possibility of a re-imposition of social restrictions, worries about infection from new variants, increasing delays in getting healthcare, concerns about the economy, concerns about the climate, and more, and all this is on top of the difficulties in life that are personal to us. It would be entirely natural to feel thoroughly oppressed and attempt to appease our worry with various forms of bingeing.

Bingeing can give some short-term comfort, but it isn’t a real answer to any real-life problem, and this is because it’s an inappropriate response. When we feel stressed our conscious minds do what they are meant to do – try their hardest to problem-solve – but stress is an emotional state which can’t be addressed by the mind; it’s impossible to think away a feeling.

A further complication is that once the bingeing had started and you begin to get that uncomfortable awareness that you’re not feeling significantly better, the mind urges us towards yet more bingeing. When that doesn’t work, even more anxiety can creep in.

A most unfortunate side-effect of the failure of bingeing is that we can start to feel like failures ourselves – you’ve treated yourself to some self-indulgence (and there’s nothing wrong with that!), but you don’t feel any better. There is a solution, but it can be obscured by escalating bingeing.

Kendo has always asked visitors to the Nagasaki Retreat to suspend disbelief when they arrive, and instead trust in the mindful and meditative Zen processes he guides his guests through. Achieving a suspension of disbelief is important because it stops the mind nagging at us for reasons and answers, and with that metaphorical door opened, it’s much easier to contemplate Zen.

Kendo has also said that while meditation is simple, it isn’t necessarily easy – it takes practice to calm the ‘monkey mind’ and let all our concerns fall away for a time, and then emerge with a new perspective on everything in and around our lives.

So, just as we know that a little physical exercise is good for our physiques, a little mental exercise can work wonders with dealing with all our stresses. The mental exercise Kendo advocates is accepting that the mind is brilliant at certain things, but it’s out of its depth when it comes to our emotions. Rather than bingeing, we need to be ready to switch off our minds and find the peace of Zen, let all our concerns fall away, and let our intuitive selves speak to us and guide us. Just being aware that offering a little resistance to the temptation of bingeing can be powerfully healing.

So, during the festive season, Kendo says, by all means binge! But do it as a reward for being your best self, and not as an attempt to escape from stress. For that, suspend your disbelief, quieten the nagging mind, and find the peace of Zen. With practice, this simple approach will enable you to flow with any number and variety of challenges, and still be your best self, to the benefit of your family, your community, and ultimately the whole world.

Kendo’s Healing Message for November

13th November is always a significant date for all things Kendo, Kyu Shin Do, and Zen, as it’s the anniversary of the first public appearance of Kendo Nagasaki in a wrestling ring, which began an era of inspiration for all who saw him.

The Kendo Nagasaki phenomenon came about after the man behind the mask, Peter Thornley, was himself powerfully inspired by the man who’d begun as his judo teacher, sensei Kenshiro Abbe. It was clear to Peter that there was something profound about this man’s sheer skill, power, and stillness, so he literally sat at the feet of the master, opening his mind to Abbe’s Zen Buddhist wisdom, as well as his fledgling philosophy of Kyu Shin Do.

In many respects this was a courageous thing for Peter to do, as it meant contemplating unfamiliar eastern ways while letting go in meditation of all he’d learned as a westerner. But gradually, Peter felt how the stillness of Zen and the perspective of Kyu Shin Do opened him to entirely new ways of considering himself and his relationship with the world around him.

In the wrestling ring Kendo Nagasaki became an example of how excellent one needs to be to overcome the many and various challenges that life can throw at us, whilst also suggesting that such strength could come from within ourselves. Now, through his healing messages, the secret to Kendo’s power has been revealed as Zen and Kyu Shin Do, and that the pursuit of these can lead to personal transformation on all levels.

As part of this process, at the events held at the Nagasaki Retreat, Kendo has illustrated how Japanese Zen Buddhism incorporates Japan’s original indigenous religion, Shintoism, which, as with British paganism, leads to an active awareness of our relationship with nature. Recalling that we are a part of nature and not somehow superior to or separate from it is not only an important gesture of humility, it encourages us to extend our own self-regard to include concern for nature itself, which, in these climate-critical times, is more important than ever before.

This awareness can be viewed as a further aspect of the kinds of awareness that modern people must possess. Not only do we need to be aware of the risks of collapsing ourselves into social media, but we must also consider the consequences of our consumption, which – as with social media – will not come with any caveats or warnings from the providers. Never has it been so clear that we must take responsibility for the consequences of our choices.

On this 57th anniversary of Kendo’s first appearance, he would ask that we further open our awareness to the needs of the natural world around us. Even a small adjustment in concern for nature’s well-being will inevitably enhance the ecological-friendliness of the choices we make, for which nature, in its reciprocal benevolence, will reward us. More than this, nature is now clearly in need of humanity’s help, and being the best we can be requires us to make those nature-friendly choices.

Onwards, in enlightened benevolence.

Kendo’s Healing Message for October

As time passes, subsequent generations have tended to comment on the increased complexity of modern life. This is not surprising, as the number and variety of technological devices in contemporary society has relentlessly increased ever since the industrial revolution. However, there have also been hidden consequences of adopting the latest thing – of course cars were preferable in many ways to horses and carts, but the consequences of so many exhausts was not even imagined for decades.

Ironically, the very first cars were electric, but petroleum gained a foothold and eventually won out, and then protectionism of that technology became a ‘thing’; if electric had had a century of unencumbered development, human-caused climate change would likely not be nearly as advanced as it is now, though other adversities would likely have emerged. Likewise, had the harm of smoking not been swept under the carpet for so many years, many lives would not have been lost to disease.

As consumers, none of this was our fault – we weren’t told the facts, but as they have emerged, we need to act as informed, wise people, particularly as the latest squeaky-clean technology – social media – has been shown to be both toxic and addictive, and particularly harmful for young people.

Kendo has long advanced meditation as a supremely effective way of gaining freedom from dependence on any pernicious mental process, everything from our own nagging doubts to doom-laden memes, a.k.a. negative infectious ideas. It’s incredibly effective, even against the internet – to use a technological metaphor, every time you meditate you’re re-booting yourself and getting a fresh perspective on life.

However, Kendo’s path to self-empowerment includes developing an active discrimination to use in real-time, having a working filter that blocks harmful memes before they can adversely affect us – after all, we can’t meditate all the time. This is where Kyu Shin Do can help.

In Kyu Shin Do, as we go into meditation we visualise placing all our concerns distanced away from ourselves, so that we can be independent from them as we seek the stillness of Zen. As we come out of meditation, we re-acquaint ourselves with our worldly concerns, but we have a new perspective on them, and our intuition will usually have given us new insights on how to deal with them.

This is how we de-toxify social media. By remembering that it has an agenda – to ensnare you by annoying or offending you – at face value that seems annoying in itself, and we rightly feel that something should be done. Ultimately, something will be done, but that will take time, and in the meantime we lose nothing by enhancing our discrimination against such unethical actions against us.

So, when you next do a Zen Kyu Shin Do meditation, include the suspicious motives of social media among the problems you distance from yourself, and you will emerge with an enlightened discrimination towards the technology.

Kendo does not propose shunning social media, as it has many positive aspects, including keeping in touch with friends and family and sharing positive ideas; instead, he advocates using it for these very reasons, as well as to keep up to date with modern technologies, as this will give us the best chance of setting a good example of responsible social media use to young people. This is infinitely preferable to leaving them to struggle alone in metaphorically shark-infested waters, with a technology that would otherwise be unfamiliar to us.

Again, Kendo’s Zen Kyu Shin Do empowers you to be an agent for positive change in a world of challenges, even those we haven’t yet imagined.

Kendo’s Healing Message for September

To ask questions of life itself is entirely natural, particularly for us in the west. Even if one is completely at peace with one’s life – including work, relationships, hearth and home, resources, prospects – the process of living life can give rise to questions of a higher nature, such as, “What’s it all for?”, and “What am I achieving, beyond more of the same?”

These are known as existential questions, and are absolutely within the ‘wheel-house’ of western intellectual exploration! Of course, one of the principal purposes of meditation is to re-boot the mind and shut down the possibility of existential questions giving rise to anxiety, but could such questions themselves have a positive function? Might indulging them be of help to the enlightened meditator?

Kendo would say, “Yes.” Those who know his approach to meditation will have heard of Zen Kyu Shin Do, the process of visualising all your earthly concerns placed at a safe distance away from you – in orbit around you – on your journey into the absolute peace of Zen. Existential questions can join those concerns at that safe distance, and, your intuitive wisdom, liberated by stilling the mind, will, on your return to the intellectually-dominated conscious world, yield the answers they seek.

Buddhism enjoins us to be the best we can be, and even though it seems a disarmingly simple aim (although, not necessarily an easily-achieved one), that’s all we need to ‘know’. Meditation is an excellent antidote to the knots of questions and anxieties that the conscious mind is so capable of weaving, but Kendo’s path is one of ‘recruiting’ the mind in that Buddhist aim.

Wherever you find yourself, whatever you find yourself doing, whatever immediate situation crops up, you can remind your conscious mind of how things look and feel immediately after meditation, when all is still and clear and so wonderfully calm. Then, you understand everything, answers come easily and without anxious negotiations in the face of imagined difficulties – it’s easy to be your best self.

Kendo recommends taking this recollection into all that we do, however mundane or routine it may seem. Recalling ‘the Buddha within’ transforms our own lives and the lives of all around us, but that’s not all – Kendo adds that this simple process answers all existential questions, effortlessly.

“What are you achieving?” You are the core of an atmosphere of positivity and benevolence which inevitably affects others positively. “What’s it all for?” Just as society pre-dated you, you would hope for it to be as benevolent as possible for your entrance into, and continued existence in, the world; being the best you can be is making a significant contribution to the general benevolence of society for those yet to come into the world, and into the future.

Kendo observes that being the best you can be is, of course, its own reward, but even if one is tempted to consider such an aim through an existential lens, for all concerned, the only logical conclusion is that it would be irrational not to do it!

Kendo’s Healing Message for August

This month’s Healing Message falls upon a Friday, which makes it a spiritual successor to Kendo Nagasaki’s debut on another Friday 13th many years ago. Both Kendo and the man behind the mask have undergone many changes over that time, and, just as they have done, it’s always worth reflecting on the person we have become over time.

Someone once remarked that the only person one should strive to be better than is one’s own prior self, and this is great advice – it’s a kind of personal ‘kaizen’, which is Japanese for continuous improvement. Of course, Buddhism encourages humility and striving to understand one’s place in nature and the world, and while we should let go of any negativity we may feel towards ourselves, we should also develop a healthy attitude towards our personal successes – confidence in ourselves needs to be free from ego, and finding this balance can only lead to more of that ‘kaizen’.

Kendo’s Kyu Shin Do Meditation is an excellent way to let go of all the external thoughts and feelings and attitudes and apprehensions we may have about ourselves, and even if we don’t recognise those in ourselves, perhaps we would benefit from opening our intuitive awareness to the kind of person we are. Day-to-day survival in the western world is very much an intellectual battle, we are so beset on all sides with distractions and third-party opinions that we really don’t have the opportunity to understand ourselves.

Whatever your circumstances, you can benefit from re-booting your self-image! As you begin your meditation, the Kyu Shin Do approach should be to place everything you think about yourself at that safe distance away from you, in orbit around you, so that you can get to know yourself intuitively in the peace of Zen. Do this with a good heart – you shouldn’t expect negative feedback from your own intuitive self! It will have the honesty of true wisdom, and it will reveal your achievements as well as your opportunities to grow further.

This is not mere ‘navel-gazing’ – you are making an earnest effort to understand yourself ‘sui generis’, completely in-and-of yourself, free from anyone else’s attitudes, and even your own, which may have been improperly influenced by others. Let it all go, and meet yourself, discover yourself, and continue the good work of finding the Buddha within you.

Taking the wisdom of non-judgmental self-awareness out into the world will present it with the best person you can be, which – as Kendo has promoted for so many years – benefits you, your family, and the whole of society around you.