Nagasaki Media

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.

Kendo’s Healing Message for July

Kendo would counsel that one of the most valuable qualities one can have is resilience. It goes without saying that life can seem like an unending series of problems to solve, demands on time and energy, and even challenges to maintaining a positive outlook. Most thinking, feeling people empathise with the world around them, and even watching the news can elicit such powerful identification with the troubles of others that it troubles and drains them too. What has been described here is no more than being human. So why is it so difficult at times?

There is no quick and easy answer to that question; being human is undeniably a challenge, but it needn’t be a one-way street.

Those who meditate already know how exquisite it is to find the stillness of Zen and let all concerns fall away; if you haven’t yet meditated, you owe it to yourself to try. The ‘re-boot’ one experiences is powerful enough in itself, but one also gains fresh perspectives on everything in one’s life. And so, resilience is found.

Kendo has long advocated rising to life’s challenges to the best of one’s ability, as it is triumphing over them that progressively builds yet more strength. Indeed, he goes further – a life without challenges has nothing to teach us, so we should always stretch ourselves, go further, do more, welcome ever more new, challenging experiences. Whilst this may sound exhausting, it genuinely isn’t, if you have meditation to fall back upon.

Another strength that emerges from meditation is objectivity. Kendo points out that many of life’s difficulties – particularly those relating to people – can seem beyond understanding, such as: why would anyone do anything to wound another? Conventional wisdom is inclined to condemn apparently hurtful behaviour, but even having such an opinion is a burden of negativity itself. Any such burden is lifted when the problem is ‘let go’ in meditation, and this opens the way to judgment-free understanding – we can never know all the reasons why strangers do what they do, but they should be able to walk their own paths and make their own discoveries free from the animosity of others.

Kendo shows us that the peace and objectivity we get from meditation relieves all parties of the burden of judgment and condemnation, and it gives us back the energy we may have expended this way. Meditation enables us to take life at face value, fearing no unknown future, living and letting-live, not wasting energy on worries we can transcend or judgments we are not motivated to make. In combination with the experience of Zen peace and the mental re-boot of meditation, the energy this returns to us can only strengthen our resilience, and give us confidence to seek ever more challenges, and learn from them.

This is Kendo’s way – be ambitious for yourself, and have confidence in your strength and ability to succeed on every level.

Kendo’s Healing Message for June

Kendo has been asked, “If, despite your best efforts, things are getting you down, how can you get back to feeling optimistic?”

This is a perfectly natural question – understandably so, as the norm for most of us is continuing to meet recurring challenges in order to keep our heads above water, so-to-speak. It’s entirely reasonable to wonder, “Won’t things ever get easier?”

Kendo says that feeling this way can be helped greatly by letting everything go in meditation, but the process can be enhanced. Of course you should find the place of Zen peace and relax absolutely, but adding a hint of Kyu Shin Do can enhance the process and add perspective.

In Kyu Shin Do, Kendo has advised that seeking Zen peace after visualising all your problems positioned away from you, at a safe distance – effectively ‘in orbit’ around you – can help you achieve a deeper Zen peace, and feel better and more objective about returning to your life’s challenges following your meditation. You’re not forgetting about, ignoring, or dismissing your challenges – you’re giving yourself a well-deserved break from them, and you’ll be re-empowered and equipped with new perspectives on them when you return to dealing with them.

During the unique challenges of the past year, Kendo has found that some people have confessed to becoming more dispirited than they’ve ever felt, and finding oneself in this state of mind can be particularly difficult. If you find yourself to be depressed, it’s actually normal to lack the motivation to do anything, including helping yourself; depression can genuinely shut us down and deprive us of any and all motivation.

However, this illustrates the one key aspect of self-discipline which Kendo most strongly recommends – don’t believe the nonsense your conscious mind tells you – you are fundamentally wiser than it, and you re-charge your batteries by switching it off and reaching your wise, intuitive core. You can never meditate too much – indeed while each meditation may follow the same format, every one is different – you are different every time you meditate, and every one empowers you in unique ways.

Of course, the sceptical, reductionistic, limited conscious mind will raise objections and prompt you to ask, “What’s the point?” If you listen, then a simpler, more basic, less sophisticated level of yourself is triumphing over a wiser, more profound, and higher part of yourself – the part which can lift you out of any negativity and help you become all you can be.

So, when things feel bleak, take Kendo’s advice and remember that you are bigger and better than how you feel or any of the childish arguments of your simple mind – and all you have to do to regain the upper hand is take the initiative, spend some time in Zen peace, and you’ll come out on top once more.

Kendo would remind us that this simple act of self-discipline and self-motivation is at the foundation of the warrior spirit – you won’t know how great you can be unless you remember to rise above and beyond the crass complaints of the simplistic conscious mind.

Onwards!

Kendo’s Healing Message for May

As life begins to look like it’s going to return to ‘normal’, we have every right to feel optimistic and look forward to the kind of summer we know and love – good company, good weather, good times. However, Kendo recommends that we reflect upon things, as doing so will strengthen our balance. What does he mean by this?

Those who already meditate and follow Kendo’s recommendations know that he is a strong advocate of counting our blessings, as opposed to falling into the trap of expecting them. When everything is going well it is easy to slip into a kind of complacency about our responsibilities to others, and to the natural world around us – of which we are, of course, a part. This is why Kendo recommends meditation and humility, so that we don’t lose sight of any opportunities to be the best we can be.

But emerging from the restrictions of the pandemic presents a new challenge – we may find that immersing ourselves into what we used to enjoy may lead to feelings of anti-climax and even disappointment; why might this happen?

When we are challenged we need to find inner resources to meet, manage, and master the challenge, and this is what we have all been doing – generally successfully – as a nation. As we’ve all been in it together, we’ve shared a coping mentality and looked forward together to freedom from limitations, but we have been changed by our enforced restrictions – we have been strengthened and deepened by our challenges. It may be that we need more from an unrestricted life than we had before – we may find that we need our lives to be more meaningful.

Finding our new balance is greatly eased by meditating. As Kendo has observed often before, seeking the peace of Zen and being open to our intuitive wisdom helps us to flow into the best person we can be, with no pre-conceptions or attitudes or opinions holding us back. Remembering that the conscious mind is limited is extremely helpful in making it our ally as opposed to our master, and allowing all levels of our selves to be expressed.

So, as our freedoms increase, Kendo recommends that we embrace them in an enlightened way – ease back into them as opposed to bingeing on them, and take with you everything you have learned from successfully coping with your recent restrictions. As ever, taking an enlightened approach to change – even positive change – will make your experience of it, and others’ experience of you – the best it can be.

Kendo’s Healing Message for April

Sakura in Snow with Buddha WS_sm

This April we saw a sight never usually seen – the exquisite Sakura cherry blossom in snow. Usually signifying spring, when cherry blossom appears nature is usually green, the days are lengthening and warming – by this time we tend to have had enough of winter!

However, this year nature gave us this exquisite surprise – a most unlikely combination of beauties – and, like the Sakura itself, it was a fleeting beauty, lasting less than one afternoon.

Temperatures low enough for snow usually prevent the Sakura from even developing, let alone appearing, but they survived for their full term, and in so doing, this year gave us an additional metaphor for the innate beauty of nature.

Kendo would recommend that we contemplate this metaphor. Surprising and unexpected events arise in all our lives, sometimes seeming to suggest a reversal or adversity, but, just as the Sakura survived the snow, we are more resilient than we think, more able to survive our own adversities and see the ‘gift’ they may have contained.

In the west we tend to refer to the philosopher Nietsche and his phrase, “That which does not kill me makes me stronger”; whilst this is arguably true, Kendo’s take on reflections upon our lives is more nuanced. The adversities we face give us the opportunity to become stronger, wiser, more compassionate, more patient, more tolerant – all qualities which contribute to becoming the best we could be.

Further, sudden, surprising reversals have an additional quality – they test our ability to avoid panic. As in all things to do with the human condition, Kendo advises that we need to be mindful, meditative, and contemplative, even when these hardly seem to be the most appropriate response. But this is the thing we should carry in our consciousnesses – to remember that the wise, meditative response is its own reward, in the further intuitive wisdom which will flow from your meditations on your circumstances.

It’s worth remembering that each of us is arguably as unique and as exquisite as each Sakura flower, and as resilient in adversity.

Kendo’s Healing Message for March

It has been said that the universe naturally tends towards chaos, which may seem ominous to anyone who seeks order, but it’s worth recalling that among the outcomes of this natural impetus are such wonders as the sakura – the exquisite Japanese cherry blossom. Likewise, another outcome is the human being who is capable of appreciating the beauty of the sakura, being inspired by it, and holding and recalling an image of it, which amounts to the opportunity for lifelong inspiration from just a single glance.

In the same vein, human life can seem to be little more than a series of challenges. As soon as we overcome one difficulty another seems to arise, and this can seem wearisome and sometimes even pointless. However, Kendo suggests a helpful perspective on challenges.

Just as Kendo observes when guests at the Nagasaki Retreat reach the ‘Pathway Bench’, every single pebble in the path which has been traversed on the way there represents a challenge having been successfully overcome. With this viewpoint, the pebbles which lie ahead are given a less ominous perspective – despite all those challenges, we’ve successfully survived and reached the point of reflection and contemplation (the Pathway Bench), and our contemplations should reveal that our survival and ability to be reflective about challenges means that those which inevitably lie ahead feel less ominous. However challenging our journey has been, it has strengthened us and equipped us with resources which tip the balance in our favour as we face future challenges.

Kendo recommends that we take a moment to appreciate the warrior nature we have developed on our journeys. Having overcome so much, we should do more than just breathe a sigh of relief – we should recognise that we have developed strength, we have become skilled, we have the benefit of experience, which in turn makes us wise, capable of anticipating and reacting with the right focus, and, in the light of appreciating all this, we deserve to feel confident in ourselves and whatever future faces us.

This is actually an objectivity which comes from Zen and Kyu Shin Do – taking ourselves out of the subjective experiences of our battles and looking objectively at all the resources we brought to bear in triumphing brings deserved confidence and additional strength of purpose to our quest to be the best we can be. This is, as has been said, the ‘good fight’, recognising our hard-won strengths and remembering that they are forever ours, whatever we may face in the future.

It is with this immensely positive self-knowledge, born of meditation and reflection, that Kendo always encourages us ‘Onwards!’

Kendo’s Healing Message for February

As a way out of the restrictions caused by Covid-19 becomes apparent, anticipation of our forthcoming freedoms is delicious! The ability to see friends and family without limitation and engage in unfettered relaxation and leisure activities and look forward to holidays is universally welcome and represents the return of some kind of ‘normal, but Kendo recommends that we take the opportunity to consider some of the aspects related to that return.

Firstly, the science which has led to such incredibly fast development of multiple vaccines has its roots in inspiration, which is undeniably intuitive. Whilst data can tell a scientist where they’ve arrived, it doesn’t necessarily point to where to go next. Much of the hard work which led to the required breakthroughs will have resulted from scientists wracking their brains and exhausting the next logical destination, and the resulting rationalistic vacuum creates the opportunity for the intuition to be heard. As Kendo points out, before a scientific theory can become a rule through experimentation, it begins as a philosophy, an idea, an inspiration – even for scientists at the cutting edge and under pressure, the intuition remains the key to brilliant advances, and space must be made for it to be heard. Kendo reminds us that this always remains true for us all.

As we begin to benefit from the outcomes of intuition-based science, we’ll be re-embarking on our social and leisure activities, and this ‘re-start’ gives us the opportunity to consider anew the consequences. Our reduced activities under Covid have resulted in a record fall in carbon dioxide levels worldwide, which will hugely benefit nature globally. Kendo advises that our relief at the return of our freedoms should be tempered with humility – we need to see any injury we cause to the world around us as an injury to ourselves, and any concession to caring for the environment as doing ourselves a favour. Such an enlightened approach – as guided by our inner Buddha – will naturally benefit us all, and perhaps even recalling the intuition-guided scientists to whom we owe so much will help us to make the best decisions for all – ourselves, our families, and the whole world.

Kendo recommends that even though a sense of normality will be returning to our lives, this is an especially good opportunity to meditate on the most enlightened way to use our new freedoms – it would be the responsible, Buddhist thing to do.

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.