The Healing Blog

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

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.

Kendo’s Healing Message for February

At the New Year, Kendo recommends that we employ the metaphor of welcoming the first sunrise of the year, and strongly associating ourselves the healing, strength, and positive new beginnings that it symbolises. Perhaps more practical than ‘New Year Resolutions’ which may become irksome to maintain, resolving to be generally stronger, better, and more positive has broader applicability, and is more forgiving if we occasionally back-slide! If we do, we can simply renew our aspirational vows.

After a few weeks, we begin to feel familiar with a New Year, and by this time, it may feel like pretty much any old year – it’s still bitingly cold outside, our usual struggles continue to confront us, and we’re only half-way to the Spring Solstice – the optimism of the New Year can by now have begun to seem somewhat remote…

However, Kendo would remind us of a charming Japanese ritual which takes place at the beginning of February, called ‘Setsubun’. The aim of this fun tradition is to banish ‘evil’ and welcome good furtune, and it’s practised by throwing roasted soy-beans out of the front door! The ‘evil’ can comprise anything negative, such as negative thoughts, ill-health, and any kind of misfortune, and it goes without saying that any kind of good fortune is welcome!

Kendo points out that it’s not actually necessary to start throwing beans about (though it sounds hilarious!), but even entertaining the image is an excellent reminder of the positivity we embraced at the New Year, and our affirmation of ‘new leaf’ determination to be better from that moment onwards.

So, if things are starting to seem like ‘same-old, same-old’ drudgery, if you’re fed-up with the cold and grey weather, and if optimism is feeling a little scarce, Kendo recommends that we remind ourselves of our New Year optimism and aspiration, by imagining ourselves hurling handfuls of beans out through our front doors, knowing that they take that all our negativity with them, and that in its stead, good fortune will flood inwards and surround us…

The Japanese take the symbolism of the tradition seriously, but they also have huge fun practising Setsubun, and even if it’s hard for us in the West to accept that a bean can actually carry ‘evil’ away, the hilarity of the mental image is healing in and of itself – this might be an argument for practising it regularly during the year!

Kendo’s Healing Message for January

As 2017 begins, Kendo would remind us that positive collaboration is the ideal approach to life, yet maintaining such an aspiration in these times of endless information can be immensely difficult.

As he wrote last month, Kendo points out that there is so much visible conflict around us, and news – even ‘fake news’ – is ever-more available to us, so with such an ocean of events, opinions, and pressures around us, he asks, ‘How are we to find and maintain a path that really matters?’

The answer, he says, requires diligence, and a determination to do the right thing without allowing ourselves to be side-tracked. If this sounds familiar, it is – it’s the central principal of Zen and Kyu Shin Do.

So, when you hear of political machinations, the unbelievable findings of various countries’ intelligence services, and highly questionable agendas on all levels – Kendo says, think twice before you take a position on what you may hear or see.

It has been said often that Kendo is eclectic – he employs multiple symbolisms to help us gain objectivity and view the world around us with a necessary degree of detachment, and in this vein, he will use the example of karma. Kendo’s actual position on karma is that it’s not worth dwelling upon, because it suggests a hypothetical source of our challenges (which we should meet with benevolence, courage, and optimism whatever their source), but in the sense of keeping our heads above the modern tide of information, Kendo says that karma is a useful way of reminding ourselves that everyone – even countries – have karma, and they must rise to their own challenges in order to grow. Taking an opinion on someone else’s evolution may not be the best use of our own energies.

Kendo would take this idea further; he would argue that our challenge amidst so much information is discrimination – this very problem may well be ‘karmic’ for our generation, but it’s up to us to make the wisest choice on how we use our energies.

Opinions can be the silliest of mental traps – the conscious mind is expert at playing with ideas for their own sake, but they can distract us from the responsibilities we should be meeting, and some of them, in our immediate sphere, can be quite subtle – we should not allow ourselves to be pointlessly distracted, says Kendo, even if it seems as if everyone else is taking a position…

The foregoing makes it ever-clearer that the peace achieved in Zen meditation and the objectivity gained with Kyu Shin Do are becoming ever-more important in our lives; as a brief thought-experiment, see how detached you can be after reading just one word: ‘Trump’. Now try to stop thinking about it! Kendo points out that in and around that one person are countless energies (some of them arguably karmic!) and their out-working in the media seem like a compelling new kind of lurid theatre, but we should still try to remain detached. Doing this will allow us to fully attend to our own lives, and to allow unqualified energies of nature to have whatever positive influence they can, and we can help those energies by seeing beyond all the noise and nonsense, to the best possible outcomes for all concerned.

Kendo wishes for us all to maintain balanced, positive, and – above all – benevolently detached approaches to life throughout 2017, however complex, strange, and compelling it may seem to become!

Remember – Zen through Kyu Shin Do.

Kendo’s Healing Message for December

As we approach the end of 2016, we arguably find ourselves in a strikingly changed world. We have war, we have dissatisfaction with the political process, we have hardship on many fronts, we have an increased sense of ‘otherness’ among us, and these energies can be seen all around the world…

Kendo encourages us to exercise a gentle awareness of such emergent contrasts, because they are important, but not allow them to dominate our awareness. He recommends the following approaches – firstly, do not fear what is happening around you – there is no need to. In fact, Kendo counsels that calmness is essential, in order to bring peace, strength, and order to the changes going on around us.

Secondly, Kendo recommends waiting for your intuition to guide you. When an unfamiliar situation arises, it can be comforting to take a position quickly, because then, indecision has been banished, but if things evolve in opposition to that position, fear may arise, when all that’s actually happening is that the ‘bigger picture’ is expressing itself more clearly. Kendo reminds us that such fear can be avoided by maintaining a fluid impression of what’s evolving, and – as stated above – a calm and strong head amidst shifts beyond our control will ease ourselves and others into the new way of things.

Kendo also recommends that we trust in the processes around us. There would seem to be global and cultural shifts under way, and the emerging new ways will need people of optimism and benevolence to help it express itself in the best possible way.

In summary of the foregoing, Kendo counsels that in these unusual times, all you need to do is continue doing what the Buddha advocates – be the best you can be – keep doing the right thing at all times, embrace the positivity and intuitive gifts which come from calmness, and know that the future contains your own positive, flexible, and constructive attitude.

So, Kendo advises that whatever challenge or change we witness, be ready to practice Kyu Shin Do – place it all at that safe, objective distance from your Zen-still self, and you will simply know how to be a positive force in the unfoldment of the emerging way of things, and the New Year will have the best possible start in being the best it can be also.

Kendo’s Healing Message for November

It’s 13th November once again, which means another anniversary for Kendo Nagasaki, which is, of course, being celebrated with another Event at the Retreat.

Actually, this 13th November is the second anniversary of the orchard which Kendo had planted here at the Retreat to celebrate his half-century. Just as on that night, tonight, we’ll be back out there, with a candle burning at each of the orchard’s 50 trees, with Kendo performing his Aspiration/Affirmation Stick Burning Ceremony at a vigorous brazier – it should be quite a sight in the deep, dark Staffordshire November evening!

When the Anniversary Orchard was inaugurated, we were putting more energy into the Events here at the Retreat – at the time we couldn’t accommodate overnight guests, which we now can, and, as we had hoped, we’ve reached new people who come to us in order to escape the intensity and stresses of their lives, find peace, and consequently gain empowerment and inspiration.

What we couldn’t anticipate were the surprise developments of the last two years. Some things which we thought would fall into place became stuck, but others which seemed likely to be obstinate have actually unfolded most obligingly, and yet more situations have arisen out-of-the-blue.

As a part of the Retreat celebrates its own 2nd birthday, it seems fitting to reflect that what Kendo teaches here seems to apply to the Retreat itself too – collectively we have needed to be flexible like a willow branch as unexpected things have arisen, we have needed to let fixed ideas fall away to be replaced by patience as they unfolded at their own pace, and we’ve found ourselves needing to create space for the life of the Retreat itself to breathe.

Of course, none of the foregoing should be a surprise to any of us, as these are fundamental aspects of Kendo’s teachings, but it is with a wry smile that we appreciate that even the best intentions, pursued with good-natured vigour, still benefit from Kyu Shin Do: events themselves have reminded us to view them from a position of Zen stillness, and the Kyu Shin Do objectivity gives them space to evolve without changes feeling unexpected.

Consequently, Kendo’s healing message this November is to appreciate that many things beyond ourselves also benefit from Zen stillness and Kyu Shin Do objectivity – our work, our vocations, our homes, and even our hopes for the future. Kendo has always enjoined us to meditate so that we can be the best we can be for the benefit of all around us, but it may also be worth sparing a moment to think about how applying Zen Kyu Shin Do principles to everything we touch and interact with can help them too, and how we relate to them, and so discover how to make a positive difference to the bigger picture of life all around us.

Kendo’s Healing message for October

Perspective – it’s a fascinating concept…

Kendo has spoken at length on how the whole of nature around ourselves is the biggest of all “big pictures”, and we need to humbly appreciate that we are a part of that specific realm if we want nature to treat us favourably. This is the kind of humility that is practised in prayer – accepting that there are bigger things than ourselves – and it helps keep the ego in check.

But, sometimes we can find ourselves asking, “What is my place in the ‘big picture’?”

It’s a question that is typical of the mind, fabricating a reason to analyse, instead of just getting on with things! But – is there an answer?

Kendo points out that there most certainly is.

Of all things, ideas, and concepts, there is one immutable truth about human life: our societies pre-exist us, we are born into them and adapt to them, we contribute to them, and they continue to exist after we have moved on. This is both an example of bigger things than ourselves, and an illustration that our actions matter.

Everything we do creates ripples in the society around us, and changes the quality of society for everyone; our lifetimes can have a profound effect on the lives of many others, and because in the west we spend so much time wrapped-up in ourselves, we can fail to realise this.

There is another fascinating dynamic here, says Kendo – when you reach out to society, it reaches back – you become aware of needs that it collectively has, and you may be the person who is uniquely positioned and skilled to make positive change at that moment; if you have a heart and a social conscience, you respond.

All the foregoing is why caring about the society around us is so important to Kendo, springing as it does from the roots of Buddhism. It’s so much more than playing the role of a caring person – it’s making quantum shifts in the entire fabric of reality, forever.

Kendo’s healing message for October is: never under-estimate the magnitude of the difference you can make, just by having the right approach and being ready to reach out. We are in the Astrological time of Libra – Kendo’s illustration should help us understand how inportant it is, and how easy it is, to make our society fair, just, and positive for all.