The Healing Blog

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

Kendo’s Healing Message for December

Kendo has long recommended that we always seek to be the best we can be – as he has – not only for ourselves but also for our families and communities. Any and all aspiration is worthwhile, but what should we do when we feel blocked, obstructed, or unable to make progress?

There is a little phrase that is central to Japanese culture that helps that Buddhist society in remarkably profound and effective ways – it is “Shou ga nai” (pronounced “shaw ga nigh”), and Kendo recommends that we consider its implications.

The literal translation is, “it can’t be helped,” which on the face of it sounds somewhat defeatist, but it’s not that simple. An enlightened approach to the concept reveals that it is actually an aspect of mindfulness – whatever is beyond our control should be allowed to fall away, as in a meditation, so that it no longer preoccupies our consciousness. Doing so frees up our resources to deal with what is actually before us, rather than having our frustration getting in our way.

Just because something ‘can’t be helped’ doesn’t mean it can’t be resolved – it may just need a different approach, or a little more time, and freeing ourselves from frustration will make viable alternatives come much more easily to mind. Likewise, something that ‘can’t be helped’ isn’t necessarily unimportant and should be forgotten about – being the best we can be means we should do out utmost to resolve the challenges we encounter, and freeing ourselves from the mind-set that it’s not possible means it remains possible, with the right state of mind.

“Shou ga nai” is therefore like a micro-meditation – it frees us from frustration and feeling defeated, and it maintains access to every possible solution. When confronted with such a conundrum, it’s perhaps an elegant approach to think of the Buddhist and mindful approach in its native language; say “Shou ga nai” to yourself, relax, and be prepared for your intuition to present alternative solutions.

At the very least, you’ll be able to de-stress, which is always good for your health, and finding those creative solutions will be good for your self-confidence too.

“Shou ga nai” may be the smallest and simplest component to the best “you” that you can possibly be, whatever challenges you face.

Kendo’s Healing Message for November

Here at the Nagasaki Retreat, at our November Event we commemorated Remebrance Sunday, a solemn occasion which respects all those who have given their lives in service. The loss of so many noble souls is tragic, but the example they have left of courage and selflessness is astonishing; arguably, the best way for their sacrifice to matter is to be inspired by it.

It has been said that the worst thing that’s ever happened to you is the worst thing in the world – it’s a sensible argument, because it’s based on your own experience. But ceremonies like Remembrance shed light on challenges and hardships beyond what most of us can imagine, yet those whom we remember courageously chose to meet them – could we do the same?

This is an example of perspective, but it’s often difficult to achieve – it’s easy to become wrapped-up in the here-and-now of our lives, our immediate responsibilities and the demands upon us, to the extent that we may feel we have nothing left in reserve, that we are stretched as far as we could possibly be.

Kendo points out that this is not the case. He assures us that we have only seen how far we can go under the challenges we have already faced, but we should be confident of being able to go much further.

Instead of feeling overwhelmed, we should congratulate ourselves on what we have achieved, on successfully meeting our challenges, and use that positive assessment to build confidence in our futures, whatever they may hold.

To do this requires taking a moment away from our challenges, giving ourselves a few minutes of time to find that perspective, during which we can reflect upon what others with even greater challenges have still managed to do for their families and their communities.

As Kendo points out, those whom we remember will always be glorious, and profoundly inspiring.

Kendo’s Healing Message for October

Last weekend we were delighted that many wonderful people came to the Estate for the opening of the Lee Rigby House. It was truly inspiring to experience everyone’s goodwill and optimism, and their willingness to lend a hand to those who need it so that they can unwind and re-find their strength and balance.

Everyone remarked upon the peace and wonderful ‘feel’ of the setting around the House, which itself is is a powerful testament to the capable and generous people who gave so much of their time and abilities to bring Lyn Rigby’s vision to such excellent fruition. The whole is even more than the sum of its magnificent parts.

The House truly feels like the oasis it was always hoped it would be – it’s steadfast but unassuming, like a good friend, and the harmonious essence of nature surrounds it and flows through it; it is definitely a healing place.

For those of us on the Estate who witnessed the entire project, it’s impossible to look at the House without seeing detail after detail after detail which exists only because of someone’s generosity and compassion, and they are beyond number; the House was literally built with love, and is a monument to it.

Everyone who played a part in this project has so clearly been the very best that a human being can be, and it’s been overwhelming to have seen this from so many people. Their goodwill has effectively made the peace and power of nature easily accessible to those who need to feel it, and it’s an astonishing synergy.

There cannot be a clearer example than the Lee Rigby House of how much selfless goodwill there is in support of those who have lost loved ones, and helping them back to strength and optimism, and feeling part of a most excellent family.

Kendo’s Healing Message for September

There’s never a bad time to remember that there is more to life than our daily lives.

That may sound like a contradiction, but Kendo advises us to remember that we are more than just machines which are meant to deal with all the obligations and necessities we face. It’s by remembering this that we can avoid feeling pulled in every direction, that we have no time for ourselves, and that life is little more than a chore.

Kendo has pointed out that everything we face every day are all opportunities to express ourselves, and ideally to do so in a way which makes the world better. You may think, “I simply don’t have time to dwell on such fanciful thoughts!” – and if you’re very busy, you probably don’t. Well, you don’t have to – but you owe it to yourself to remember that everything that you do with a good heart does that good work, and speaks volumes for your character.

The trick is to let it become automatic. In the word ‘Kendo’ is the word ‘-do’, which in Japanese means ‘way’, but it also means ‘dao’ which means ‘harmonious way’ and ‘way without thinking’. The harmonious way can come from just a few minutes of calm, when you can re-connect with the bigger picture of life. Remember that you are always a part of nature itself, which is a really big and beautiful picture, and entirely harmonious. Briefly letting go of all your cares and worries will let you make that connection and re-find your balance, and once you’ve done it a few times, you’ll find that it’s with you more and more, even through your most intense challenges.

This is Zen – the peace that grounds, gives perspective, and brings the endurance to face anything. Kendo points out that you are not defined by the obligations you face, they are defined by you, and by putting them in their proper perspective and forgetting them for just a few moments will remind you of the harmonious big picture of which you are a part. Then, everything you do and your life itself will automatically be harmonious.

Kendo’s Healing Message for August

One of the most popular experiences for our guests at the Nagasaki Retreat is being in the grounds. They are treated much like the gardens in Buddhist temples in Japan – they are not over-cultivated, and there is nothing artificial or contrived – nature is left to express itself, and all that’s done is to keep things neat and tidy.

Because of this approach, the grounds are as close as possible to the most natural expression of themselves. Kendo is faithful to the Shinto ideal of being as hospitable as possible to every living thing in the grounds – it’s the best way to honour the spirit that each one possesses.

In many ways, this attitude is an act of humility towards nature – it’s also a gesture of respect. Kendo makes this clear when guests come to our Events, and a parallel is drawn to our own spirits; we cannot expect to be treated harmoniously by the universe around us unless we have that same attitude towards it.

Thus, the simplest thing in nature is a reminder of the potential we have for the most positive and complete relationship with the world around us, if we choose it to be so. Kendo recommends that making such a connection should be wordless – it should be intuitive, free from reasoning, unhurried, and mindful, like a good meditation.

Thus, Kendo advises, everything from a single cherry blossom to a mighty Atlas Cedar has the power to take us out of ourselves, to give us a deep peace through connecting with it as an equal in the whole of nature, and thus, Kyu Shin Do detachment and objectivity about our lives.

Kendo points out that you don’t need to be here to practise this healing detachment – taking a moment to contemplate anything in nature, from the smallest to the biggest, can re-connect us with the most natural and most powerful part of ourselves – our intuitive selves. Doing so regularly is powerfully enlightening and healing.

Kendo’s Healing Message for July

Kendo is known for reminding us that challenges are meant to be risen to, and doing so brings out strengths we didn’t know we had. But what if you’ve been courageously striving onwards, yet things continue to seem as challenging as they have always been, and you haven’t found your efforts reflected in the diligence of others? What if you’re fed up, and everyone else around you seems to be too?

That’s when, Kendo tells us, we need to employ a little Kyu Shin Do – take a big step back, and look at it from the stillness of Zen; intriguingly, though, as Kendo’s wisdom is a blend of East and West, we can actually use a ‘thought experiment’ to help us aspire, and a rationalist might approach it as follows…

If events are destined, then we have no free will, so things will happen no matter what we do for good or ill – is this true? Kendo says ‘No’. He says, whatever happens, you have free will regarding yourself, and nothing can take that away from you. You’re not meant to be ground down by hardships – they are simply the means by which you get ever-stronger, and, whatever your circumstances, who you are now will always be a real achievement, of which you can be proud.

And this is where Kendo’s eclectic mix of East and West provides really inspiring symbolism. In the Western discipline of Astrology, the deepest reading reveals that how we react to destined events effectively shapes our karma, and we do have a choice. Even all the might of Pluto cannot make you feel pessimistic if you choose to look on the bright side. This is worth remembering when things get tough – just like the wonderful Tarot card, the Six of Cups, the observer is saddened by seeing three cups spilled, but hasn’t noticed the other three still upright and full, behind them. That’s the meaning of this wonderful card – don’t be disheartened by what you see in front of you – there’s a bigger picture, and looking for it is likely to reward your optimism.

This is the point that Kendo wants to share this month. You may be justifiably worn down by the challenges you’ve faced, and you may not have found optimism in the actions of others, but your own actions can lift you, and be a pleasant surprise for others, inspiring them. Kendo dares you to counfound hardship, because it can’t make you feel bad – you can choose to be positive. Your courageous choice to look for the up-side is the surest way to achieve the best outcome of a challenge, and – who knows – it may well help inspire someone who witnesses it, and is in need of a boost themselves.

These ideas are an alternate approach to the Buddhist way of always seeking to be the best you can be – your optimism is ‘paying it forward’, not only for yourself, but also for all those whom you contact. Kendo points out that we may even be destined to meet another optimist along the way! Onwards!

Kendo’s Healing Message for June

Here at the Nagasaki Retreat, we’re getting ever closer to the first major milestone of our collaboration with the Lee Rigby Foundation – the opening of the Lee Rigby House.

This project represents the culmination of many of the core principles of the perfect society – idealism, mutual support, team-work, and of course, hard work! All these are what is meant by Kendo’s mantra to ‘be the best you can be’, and we’re seeing them every day.

We’ve been amazed at the positivity of the atmosphere surrounding the project – the good-will that strangers have shown, the cameraderie and positivity of those coming here to work on the house, and the delight of meeting such fundamentally good and generous people are all humbling and truly inspiring.

What’s happening here cannot be bought – great things are being achieved by people volunteering their time and skills, their reward being the knowledge that something permanently good is being created – a genuine legacy of the very best kind.

Kendo teaches that the challenges we face are, in fact, opportunities. This can be hard to believe when a challenge is particularly great, but, as is evident from the above, no-one has to go it alone… Perhaps the first step in finding someone who can help is simply knowing that they are out there, and while answers may seem impossible to find right now, having faith in the good nature of good people will be rewarded.

This project continues to show that there is something above and beyond the rationality and reason of the mind, and that is the true positivity that springs from people pulling together for what is intuitively right. It makes it easy to believe that together we can build a future for us all that’s worth having faith in.

Kendo’s Healing Message for May

Over the last weekend of April, we held a Nagasaki Event here at the Retreat, and it was excellent! It was great to see many regular guests, as well as some new faces, all benefitting from Kendo’s approach to personal empowerment – strength from peace.

The Events are also a powerful reminder of the strength that flows from a sense of community, and, Kendo would remind us, the magic comes from levels of the self that are completely beyond the conscious self, the mind, the tyranny of rationalising, and a need for ‘answers’.

In our technologically-dominated world, it seems ever-more counter-intuitive that occasionally switching off the conscious mind can be so good for us, but it has to be experienced to be believed – the intangible ‘feel-good’ factor that arises during a Nagasaki Event can’t easily be put into words, but it’s inspiring and invigorating, and seems to liberate everyone’s sense of humour!

It’s not going too far to say that putting into practice the simple concepts of meditation and mindfulness were evidently good for us all individually, and as a group – empowering our individual intuitive selves automatically gave rise to a wonderful sense of common positivity; taking that inner positivity away from a Nagasaki Event can only be good for our families and communities.

It’s inspiring to see the kernel of Kendo’s Buddhist wisdom in action – it’s simple, but requires a little dedication, yet the secluded safety of the Nagasaki Retreat is the perfect place let the ‘noise’ fall away, and re-find oneself, and our place in the greater world.

Kendo thanks all who attended April’s Retreat Event – you made it the excellent experience it was, and in healing and empowering yourselves here, you take that positive energy out into your communities. He looks forward to seeing you again, and to welcoming more new faces to the Kyu Shin Do way of strength through peace.

Kendo’s Healing Message for April

2017 Cherry Blossom


In April, the breath-taking cherry blossom re-appears, enchanting us with its fleeting but exquisite beauty. This year, following such a mild winter, it’s come a whole month earlier than last year, and this came as something of a surprise, as well as bringing the unusual spectcle of seeing it without any greenery on any other trees!

Kendo counsels that this development could be considered to be a metaphor for life in general: it may take you by surprise, and not necessarily in a bad way…

It is one of Kendo’s most earnest recommendations that as soon as we have the slightest inkling that we need to work on ourselves, we should do so diligently. A life which has been refined with peaceful reflection and conscientious aspiration is inevitably one which will be the best it can be, and consequently, it will bless all those who come into contact with it. There is no rush – such ‘unfoldment’ of the evolved self should be effortless, and occur completely naturally and at its own pace, very much like the blossoming of a flower.

The fact that life can take us by surprise is, in itself, no surprise! The philosophical soul will greet challenges in peace and with a positive frame of mind, but this year’s early cherry blossom should remind us that good things can crop up unexpectedly too, so we shouldn’t be too preoccupied with ourselves and our challenges to be open to the beauty and positivity around us.

Indeed, as we walk the stony paths of the Retreat, taking strength from overcoming each life challenge that each pebble represents, Kendo reminds us to look up at the beauty of nature alongside those paths; there is more to life than a destination, be it the end of a path of challenges or teaching ourselves to be as accepting and giving as possible – we deserve to enjoy such a journey, and the natural universe is there for us to draw inspiration from as we travel.

…but it may not be when we expect it! The lesson, Kendo says, is in awareness, that fabulous Kyu Shin Do objectivity that can make us into truly objective and sensitive multi-taskers, refining ourselves as we support the world around us.

This is not about that modern phenomenon, FOMO – fear of missing-out – it’s about another little refinement to the work we do on ourselves, a sensitivity which means we’ll never miss another cherry-blossom moment.

Kendo’s Healing Message for March

Today, the second Basho of the year begins – a Basho being a Sumo Wrestling Tournament.

Sumo encompasses many aspects of what Kendo Nagasaki encourages us to reflect upon, as we live our lives – there is strength, strategy, and focus, of course, but Sumo originates in a Shinto ceremony whereby negative influences are overthrown, and good fortune and generous crops are harvested that year.

There is still a fascinating tradition of ‘One-Man Sumo’, wherein an amateur Sumo wrestler battles (imagined) negative forces, ensuring that only positive energies smile upon the local farming community; these almost-unheard-of rituals are very popular ‘off the beaten track’ in rural Japan, because the people there remain keenly aware of the need to be in harmony with nature, and do everything possible to support it.

All the foregoing can be seen in Kendo – his indomitability is an example of how strong we must be to be able to ‘fight the good fight’ for ourselves, our families, and our communities, his focus is an example of how all one’s strength can be mindfully applied to a task, and he is an excellent example of how the intuition can be empowered to yield right action quicker and more ‘right for the moment than the mere conscious mind could possibly come up with, and his sympathetic relationship with that most elegant of ‘big pictures’ – nature itself – leads to positive progress in life.

Watching Sumo itself can be a meditation, reflecting upon all these qualities, and particularly its spiritual roots – as he studied Kyu Shin Do (as well as judo, kendo, and Zen) under Kenshiro Abbe, the man behind Kendo’s mask was also brought to exquisite focus by also studying Sumo under his sensei.

This month, Kendo would encourage you to visualise yourself as strong as a sumo wrestler, and as focused, as intuitively strategic, and as empowered by your harmonious roots within nature itself – this is how Kendo is, and how he would aspire for us all to be, as we battle for right against the challenges of life.