y'know, I think I've been so caught up in life and all the trappings of a Pagan path that it's now time to re-examine why I turned to this path in the first place.
The prompt for this is Musashi's Book of Five Rings.
This week at dojo, instead of practicing kata or learning/reviewing different holds, throws, kicks, etc, we sat down in front of J. (our dojo's founder and leader) and listened as he told us stories of his life, occasionally bringing them around to his real point: the deeper side of martial arts practice. J., before his strokes, was a martial artist extraordinare (or so they tell me, and who am I to question it? They speak with knowing, if that makes sense) and can still bring anyone to their knees if they get close enough to him. Please imagine, if you will, a rather small man in his sixties; gray hair, surprisingly unwrinkled face, and in a wheelchair. It's amazing what a simple wrist lock can do, and word is his grip strength is like an iron vise.
Anyway, our illustrious leader slowly told us how he was raised Catholic and questioned it far too much for his family's comfort. He also spoke of ki, and told us how he helped a friend avoid surgery by helping to lower his fever using ki. (I'm don't think J. is aware of reiki and all the new-age fervor over it, but I'm sure he knows more than most about ki and its use.) This led into some key phrases in Japanese that everyone, regardless of rank or time spent at the dojo, must learn, remember, and learn from.
And for once I feel that learning Japanese was actually useful!
These phrases have much to do with a book written by an old Japanese swordsman, Musashi Miyamoto. He's worth looking up and learning more about. As he grew old, Musashi retired to a cave to write this book: Go Rin No Sho.
A Book of Five Rings outlines his view on strategy, which applies not only to single combat but can also encompass larger battles. This relates not only to combat with sword, but how to be... well, I don't know yet. I've only read the first two chapters (out of five, hence the "five rings") and this kind of book will take a very long time to really understand enough that I can explain it effectively.
I've read enough to pick up a few basic things. Firstly, I must remember that this was written back when Japan was unifying under shogun rule (1500-1600ish) and that definitely colors the contents.
no. I'm sidestepping it.
it speaks of selflessness. and this is something I've always had some trouble with. whether it be giving yourself over to God/Jesus, or working for the betterment of your lord (as seen in Musashi's work) with no thought of yourself... I've always kind of thought that if I don't take care of myself, what use will I be to anyone? and do I really want to dedicate my whole being to this? I'm always questioning and that doesn't go well with completely letting go. I think about everything and I flip around from activity to activity, I'm a scatterbrain really. I have lots of trouble with dedicating myself to anything more specific than keeping our Mother Earth healthy. I mean, yes, I'm an environmental science major in college, but I'm still mulling over what *exactly* to do with it when I graduate. I've had thoughts of grad school and working for the Park Service but it's hard to choose because it means (or at least a part of me thinks it means) that once I do that, I'll either have to stick with that to make anything out of myself or I'm stuck with it.
I'm also introverted, and do love me some quiet time where I can wander around and explore without the weight of a schedule or obligations holding me back. This is why I turned to a nature-worshipping path: I feel a kindred with all those wild creatures, who live by their own rhythm. They live and hunt and feed and escape death with such grace that it astounds me.
I'm human, and stuck in a human world. Granted, I like it here most of the time. it's a cozy little cage at that. I wonder if there really is anything more than breathing and living right now; I don't hold with anyone's theories or ideas of life after death as I haven't been there yet.
plus I don't think I like the idea of being a cog in a great machine. far too orderly. My life has what purpose I give it, and has meaning that others attach to it: I'm daughter and lover and stranger and classmate and that one wierd girl from way back when that you'd rather forget about.
This book is so very dedicated, so serious and precise and it boggles me. When you read it at first, the phrases are vague and then you start to think and when I think about it enough I can see what he means, if only a glimpse. it's hard to put into words or action as my Japanese-style sworsdmanship is just this side of nil, and I'm not terribly prone to doing the same thing day in and day out so that in twenty years I might get a glimpse of wisdom or a single word of recognition. So many paths espouse doing one thing over and over and over... like saying a mantra or doing so many sit-ups for that perfectly flat tummy or doing the same kick over and over and over until you can react without thinking and do it perfectly.
I guess I'm too attached to thinking.