The Healing Blog

Inspiring Zen-based Healing Messages from Kendo, posted Every Month, coinciding with the Distance Healing Ceremony

Kendo’s Healing Message for September

As Kendo makes clear, the need to still the mind is paramount, principally to let go of all the thoughts and wordless concerns that can distract us from living our lives wisely. In some ways this is a paradox – stepping away from the mind yet being ‘mindful’? There is an explanation…

Kendo has already said that one’s minds is one’s friend, especially when applied to ‘mind’ things, like navigating the everyday practicalities that routinely arise. Conversely, he’s also said that it’s important not to resort to the mind for things where it’s out of its depth, such as our feelings, and especially the deeper stuff, such as what we should do with our lives and what kind of person we are seeking to be. Those are definitely beyond the limits of the mind.

Kendo has, of course, counselled that meditation is the gateway to the kind of wisdom which sheds light on those deeper aspects of life, but for those who already meditate he has another approach – being mindful about the mind.

Visitors to the Nagasaki Retreat are introduced to various concepts that help put the mind into a better perspective, everything from ‘suspending disbelief’ in what Zen peace can do for you to visualising the many symbolisms of the eastern horizon; these ‘tools’ use the mind to open the mind to understanding how to be part of a team – you, your mind, and your intuition. And now he’d like to introduce a central practice of that team-work – discrimination.

Discrimination, done right, is not just an algorithm or a mechanistic approach – it is a wise position to apply to the mind to help it regognise when to ask the intuition for input. ‘Meditate on it’ is a phrase often heard, but this practice describes the highest form of discrimination. The greatest, deepest, most challenging problems in life should definitely be meditated on, and if you have that ‘light-bulb’ moment of realising that wise guidance is available to you when your mind and intuition team-up, reason through things as well as enabling your intuitive self with meditation, you’ll have used all your resources in the best possible way, and you will know what to do and how to do it.

Kendo’s ‘enlightened discrimination’ is one of his most powerful mind-tools, and by using it, all the aspects of your self will make a great team and you’ll certainly be the best you can be, to the benefit of your family and community.

What are you waiting for?! Practise enlightened discrimination from now on, and you’ll really make a positive difference in your own life and for all those around you.

Kendo’s Healing Message for August

This healing message is a little more advanced…

Kendo wants to illustrate the differences between mental activity and meditation, for example, trying to think your way to a place of complete peace as opposed meditating your way there – the nature of the experiences and the outcomes are so very different…

You’ll be familiar with the meditation guidance to let your thoughts fall away until you’re in a place of pure, inspiring peace, but have you tried achieving this with just your mind? It’s a bit of a struggle but it’s worth trying to show how poor the mind alone is at giving you answers to profound problems.

This can be done with a philosophical device called a thought experiment, whereby you ‘think’ yourself into a situation. Let’s use a thought experiment to let everything fall away…

In full consciousness, imagine that you are not bothered by any of the things that would normally annoy you, be they experiences or situations. Then extend that to not being concerned with any responsibilities, such as your job or having to pay bills. This means not having a house to live in or any means of support, but your mind can imagine never being hungry or cold. Then imagine yourself not having to interact with any people, but being away from strangers means no friends or family either. Now you’re totally alone with nothing and nowhere to be – how does that feel? Probably not good…

If you’ve got this far, it’s wise to reverse the process and remind yourself that you do have friends and family and a home and food and drink and a life, all of which brings you back to a comforting reality! But having survived this unsettling journey, you’re no wiser.

In meditation, you’re not using the basic tools of the mind to ‘construct’ peace, you’re briefly stepping away from those clunky and basic mechanisms to let a deeper and wiser voice wordlessly bring you wisdom – your intuition. It’s Kendo’s wisdom that gives you this concept and process so you can be all that your mind is, but much more too if you accept its limitations and enable your wiser self by occasionally stepping away from mere rationalising.

The idea is both an irony and a Zen koan – convince the mind that it’s a good thing not to use it, by choice, occasionally! The proof is that this apparently non-rational (- irrational?) process works so well.

Your mind is definitely your friend, and while it’s always a good thing to educate and refine and challenge it for answers, it’s essential to understand that it’s a specialist only in the field of mental things. Your emotional and intuitive selves need to be granted space for self-expression and growth too, and part of evolving into a whole, well-rounded person means knowing when to ask the mind to take a back seat for a while, occasionally. All the aspects of your ‘self’ shouldn’t be dominated by just one – they should be co-operating as friends and partners in pursuit of the best person that you can be, and meditation is central to achieving the balance that leads to that evolution.

Meditate on that!

Kendo’s Healing Message for July

Sometimes we can find ourselves longing for things to change, particularly when something negative has been hanging on and on with no sign of improvement. Whether it’s coping with a lingering health problem or wishing a misunderstanding with friends or colleagues was over or just dealing with our daily demands, sometimes the position we’re in can feel just plain oppressive. When that happens, it’s important not to let it get to us – if we dwell on enduring negativity it becomes a ‘thing’ in itself – another enduring problem we have to deal with on top of everything else.

This is where Kendo advises that it’s most important to let things go. The time-honoured phrase, “God grant me the strength to change the things I can, the grace to accept the things I can’t, and the wisdom to know the difference” gives a valuable perspective, but Kendo says that there is an additional perspective to consider.

The phrase essentially divides problems into the kinds you either can or cannot change, and provides the understanding that it’s ok not to be able to change some things. This is good because you’re being given permission not to dwell on things you can’t change, but sometimes the things you want to change are uncomfortable and unpleasant and all the strength you’ve applied hasn’t been enough. This can be depressing because it implies that we’re powerless to bring about change and that a bad situation might go on and on without improving.

Kendo says that it’s essential to break free from this kind of thinking because feeling this way is more disempowering than we realise. He reminds us that the conscious mind has its limits and can’t be expected to know all answers, and if it ends up going round in circles looking for answers it can’t find, it gets frustrated with itself, which causes anxiety. That’s the time to switch it off, and doing so even briefly can be very helpful.

Breaking-in to the above cycle stills the mental noise and liberates our intuition – we get a break from our problems and new insights come to us about how to approach them in new ways. This is the power of meditation, finding a moment of Zen peace.

Thus, Kendo’s additional perspective might be worded as follows:

“I will do my best to bring about positive change, and when that work is done I will let all my problems fall away from my mind, and in that state of freedom and peace I will be inspired anew to see things with a fresh perspective and with new insights to help me make more positive changes.”

If you try this, you’ll be amazed at how resilient and resourceful you truly are.

Kendo’s Healing Message for June

An unfortunate aspect of the human condition is finding ourselves waiting, often at times when we’re desperate for things to make progress. This can take many forms on all sorts of levels, like waiting for a development in a house-buying chain so we can finally move house, to waiting for exam results, to just waiting for someone to phone us back. If you’re waiting for something, especially if it’s important, then even waiting for the kettle to boil can seem unusually irritating.

Waiting can be at least annoying, sometimes truly exasperating, and at worst it can interfere with the rest of your life. How can we stop this kind of frustration from becoming so stressful that it affects our health?

The answer, Kendo tells us, is that time-honoured phrase – it’s simple, but not necessarily easy: let it go.

Once you’ve instructed your estate agents, finished your exam, and said, “Speak to you later”, you’ve done all you can, and you should remind yourself of that – there’s nothing more you can do, so let it go. As in a meditation, if the subject creeps back into your consciousness, let it fall away, evaporate, and turn back to the rest of your life.

This is one of many little tools of Kendo’s help you to stop being enslaved by your ‘monkey-mind’ by cleverly using it to direct itself. ‘Let it go’ is perhaps the most useful and most often needed – it’s always a good idea to meditate, switch off, and re-boot your mind, but by letting go of the things you can’t do any more to progress, you’re also being mindful about what’s in your mind.

So – take a deep breath, let it go, and you’ll be letting go of stress too, which is always healing.

Kendo’s Healing Message for May

Do you ever look back and think, “Well, that was a mistake..!”

When things haven’t gone well because of a decision you may have made, self-recrimination is a natural response, but perhaps you should give yourself a break. It’s only with the benefit of hind-sight that you can see how things may have gone a different way – at the time, you made the best decision you could.

Realising alternatives now means that you’re now wiser – your experience is broadening your outlook; you’ve become a better you.

So, Kendo counsels that far from reproaching yourself, you should welcome your broader vision, and especially what it means for your future decisions. This won’t be easy if you look back with regrets – you should instead look forward with confidence in your clearer, wiser vision.

So, as with any meditation, let any regrets fall away; in recognising the broader vision you now have you will be making the most of your experience and taking a positive step in becoming the best you can be, for yourself, your family, and your community.

Kendo points out that casting-off the negativity of regret and gaining self-confidence based on the validity of your wisdom will be a healing force that permeates all aspects of your life.

But he counsels, be mindful – remember to apply the wisdom of your experiences to the decisions you make now!

Onwards – with wisdom, confidence, and positivity…

Kendo’s Healing Message for April

190327_Buddha amidst Cherry Blossom
This spring’s cherry blossoms have been absolutely beautiful in the Anniversary Orchard.

It’s been mentioned previously that meditating on the simple, perfect beauty of cherry blossom has long been a Japanese past-time, and for good reason. Their fleeting but exquisite beauty stays in the mind’s eye, and when recalled even when they’re gone, the memory is just as enchanting as experiencing them again.

Recalling cherry blossom can be powerfully healing too; amidst life’s challenges one sometimes has to ‘count to ten’, or ‘take a deep breath’, but a technique for calming the mind that beats these is to imagine everything falling away and recalling cherry blossom, either massed on trees or just a single one.

Kendo has pointed out that visualising cherry blossom shares something with meditation – temporarily stepping away from all one’s concerns seems so counter-intuitive to the western mind, but intuitive is exactly what it is – your intuitive self can’t speak to you and guide you with wisdom that’s beyond mere rationalisation unless it has the space to do so. If you’ve already done this you’ll know the benefits, but if not, Kendo strongly recommends that you suspend disbelief and try it.

Whatever challenges you may face, Kendo hopes that the exquisite picture of this year’s cherry blossom can help you find a moment of peace and pure, simple beauty upon which to meditate, and find the pure, intuitive wisdom that lies within you.

Kendo’s Healing Message for March

A phrase we often hear concerns ‘the meaning of life’. We hear it so often that we are unlikely to analyse it, but simply assume that it relates to things like whether there’s a higher principle to work to, rather than just surviving our day-to-day experience. For many, living by principles or commandments serves to steer their actions in most admirable ways, by reflecting on whether they are keeping to those guidelines. Kendo would always applaud such aspirations to good, constructive, pro-social conduct, because it will mean that in so doing, you are being the best you can be. The meaning of your life will therefore arguably be rectitude, or rightness, a proactive and deliberate force for good.

Typically of Kendo, however, he recommends that we do engage in a little analysis, and even a thought-experiment or two.

Kendo suggests that we view life as a dynamic and complex thing – something that necessarily goes beyond ‘meaning’. Words have meaning, but the forces of nature cannot be encapsulated so easily; the wind has no ‘meaning’, any more than do the tides, or the sun, or gravity. They have effects that can be good or bad, depending upon the situation – a breeze on a hot day can be pleasant, but a typhoon can be devastating. Kendo would counsel that like these forces of nature, even the most innocuous of our actions can have positive or negative consequences.

So, life can be a ‘force’ which has ‘effects’ upon others, and already this is beyond mere ‘meaning’. But what about going further?

If you go beyond asking, ‘What is the meaning of life?’ to asking, ‘What is the meaning of my life’, you have narrowed things down from a global and nebulous concept to considering the effect that you personally have on the world and the people around you – a big step forward in terms of awareness. If you then ask yourself what is the effect of your life you have then elevated your self-awareness to a higher level; seeking to be objective about how you impact others shows a higher degree of consideration for others, and sensitivity for the nature of your actions.

Unsurprisingly, Kendo recommends that we take things one step further: what is the purpose of our lives? This degree of self-reflection is highly enlightened – you have not only considered the effect you have on the world around you, but what fundamentally guides your actions.

This is where the thought experiment comes into play. Kendo says we should remember that society existed before we were born, and it’s qualities were determined by actions taken by other people before we had life. We must then react (ideally in an enlightened way) to the society in which we find ourselves, and – also ideally – come to realise that our own actions affect not only those around us in the present, but those who have yet to be born. Kendo says this perspective shows us that we not only shape the present, but the future.

Such a realisation will affect the conscientious person; whilst we all ‘live in the moment’, sparing a thought for the future that our actions shape adds a new dynamic – in fact a new purpose to life. We should all aspire to ensure that the future is as positive as it can be for those who have yet to be born into it – we will shape their experiences, and we should do our best to ensure that they are as positive as possible.

Kendo’s bottom line here is that we are all self-aware, but are we aware of the quality of our self-awareness? If so, our lives will have so much more than an arbitrary ‘meaning’ – they will have a dynamically positive purpose, and the positive effects of your life will live beyond you. Now that means something!

Kendo’s Healing Message for February

When facing challenges, it’s natural to concentrate your energies on ‘fighting back, ‘steeling yourself’, and ‘keeping things together’. Determination is the response of the strong, and, frankly, it’s what we feel we ought to do.

However, this focus on yourself necessarily narrows your horizons and tends to shut out the rest of the world, which almost invisibly can make you feel alone with your problems.

Why is this so? You’re being brave and preventing a problem from overwhelming you – why should you then feel more isolated?

Kendo advises that once you’ve gritted your teeth and ‘battened down the hatches’, however well this helps you cope with your situation you may be overlooking your connection to the outside world and the many ways in which it can help you.

The two key things that are illustrated during a visit to the Nagasaki Retreat are stilling the mind and re-connecting with the ‘big picture’ of nature around us. Both of these things are very easy to forget in the busy, individualistic, technological western world, but once remembered, they can greatly help us to meet our challenges – and get help.

Anyone who has followed Kendo will know the benefits of taking a ‘Kyu Shin Do’ approach to challenges – resolving to put one’s problems at a safe distance while finding absolute Zen peace – but also remembering that the natural world around us is fundamentally benevolent to those who respect it can really help too. Appreciating the big picture of nature is a gesture of humility which takes ego (and therefore isolation) out of the situation; by stilling your mind and remembering that you are a part of nature around you, not only are you liberating your intuition but you’re also opening yourself to all the positive energies around you.

Kendo counsels that even when problems can seem overwhelming and meditating is the last thing on your mind, it really should be the first. Becoming the best that you can be necessarily involves facing-up to and overcoming challenges, but there’s no need to suffer in silence nor face things alone. This is a choice that will always be open to you, and making that choice will not only help you, but it will keep you in touch with the world around you and all its supportive energies.

Even when things are difficult, suspend disbelief and still your mind; at the very least you’ll benefit from a ‘re-boot’, but also remembering that you’re part of something bigger and benevolent will make it easier to reach out for the help you need – it is certainly out there and available, if you remind yourself that there’s no need to suffer in silence or isolation.

Kendo’s Healing Message for January

As we all know, change can take many forms. There are the anticipated positive changes that we look forward to at a New Year, such as those we seek to bring about with our New Year’s Resolutions, there’s the change that a great many of us hope for in the form of winning the lottery and how we imagine that would change our circumstances in so many positive ways, and there are the changes we actively make on a smaller scale, such as re-decorating or holidaying somewhere new. Change can be exciting and something to look forward to.

However, we are likely to feel very differently about changes that are unwelcome or unexpected. A bereavement, an accident, or an illness are examples of such changes, and it’s human nature to resent having to deal with them on an emotional level, let alone finding ourselves forced to divert time and energy to addressing them.

Kendo would counsel that all change is good, depending upon how you look at it; he would argue that it’s the unwelcome changes that give us the greatest opportunities for growth. That may seem of no help at all when we’re in the midst of a really challenging situation, but please bear with the reasoning…

We are all likely to have worked hard to set our lives up just as we’d wanted, and it doesn’t seem fair to suddenly find the status quo overturned. The theatre of wrestling can provide an excellent metaphor here – despite all their best efforts, countless ‘baby-face’ wrestlers lost matches to Kendo Nagasaki, and the audiences hated him for being such an efficient agent of destruction! However, the flip-side was that Kendo was admired for the excellence of his craft, and there was always the hope that his opponents would raise their games and return to triumph over him. Kendo may have been ‘evil’, but he was a necessary, inspiring, and motivating evil.

Actually, Kendo represented a ‘Zen Koan’, a challenge for which there was no immediate or even logical answer; facing-up to the kind of challenge he represented was going to require deliberation, inspiration, and good old hard work.

The same can be said of the challenges we all face. Kendo encourages us to consider them as Koans which draw upon our best selves to face them. Fine words perhaps, but how, where to begin?

Meditation can be an immensely powerful tool, particularly the approach used in Sensei Abbe’s wonderful Kyu Shin Do. Firstly, recognise that your conscious mind is probably panicking and whirling around and giving you none of the answers you need, so it’s a good idea to switch it off for a while. As you still your mind, visualise all your problems, old and new, at a safe distance from you – in orbit around you, still associated with you but not oppressing you as they have done. Then concentrate on your own peace of mind, then complete stillness of mind, and understand that you have now enabled your all-powerful intuitive self. Just a few minutes is all it takes to have a refreshing, restful break from your problems, as well as becoming informed by the subtle and wise guidance of your own highest self.

Kendo would remind you that when adverse change strikes, the panic of your conscious mind obscures the fact that you are far more able than you ‘think’ you are; you can get beyond that ‘rabbit in the headlights’ state by getting beyond the limitations of your conscious mind. It hasn’t let you down, it’s just out of its depth, but you can make the wise choice to open it and yourself the power of your own intuition.

So, when change strikes, you can have unshakeable confidence in your ability to meet it. This is true even for illness – meditating and dissipating all your stress gives your body the best possible chance of fighting back, employing its own wisdom, just as your mind will when stilled and informed by your intuitive self.

Change – it might be good to think of it as a wrestling match, but you’ve got Kendo’s skills – you can’t lose!

Kendo’s Healing Message for December

It’s Christmas time again and we all share in the positivity of the season, but it’s not so easy for those facing challenges, whatever form they may take – ill-health, relationship difficulties, or insecurity, whether personal or of one’s home.

At such times, when the contrast of the jollity surrounding us can seem at best ironic and at worst even cruel, Kendo advocates courage. But not simply trying to steel ourselves – he means enlightened courage. What does this mean?

The first thing to do is to try to discriminate – over our feelings. It’s important not to worry over the external things we can’t change; doing so risks overwhelming us when we need to be most aware of ourselves. This isn’t just being self-absorbed, but sensibly considering the one aspect we can make a difference with – ourselves. Taking a KyuShinDo approach to our external circumstances and placing them at an objective distance makes it immensely easier to think clearly and – more importantly – feel clearly.

This leads to the next phase – positivity towards ourselves. Of course, we should always strive to do the right thing with the external circumstances of our challenges, and this in itself should give us confidence in ourselves. However, in the midst of dealing with our challenges it can be all-too easy to be consumed by them and forget ourselves, It really is worth remembering our innate Buddha nature – our essential goodness.

So – take a moment, step away from things, find a Zen moment, and remember that you are more than the circumstances you face – much more.

Following Kendo’s advice when facing challenges can therefore give us courage – and strength and peace of mind, and perhaps most valuable, the ability to appreciate the positivity around us, both at Christmas time and at all other times.

All at the Kendo Nagasaki Foundation wish everyone a happy and peaceful Christmas, especially those who find themselves facing challenges; we hope that Kendo’s counsel helps you to enjoy the season.