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April 21, 2005

Cutting bamboo (Take kiri no gyo)

The first bamboo sprouts of the year are emerging from the ground at Ki no Sato.

If you come to our seminar this year, you will be able to enjoy bamboo shoot cooking at Ki no Sato. Sometimes, the young emerging bamboo shoots can even raise a large stone. The life force of bamboo surprises me so much.

Also, this is the season for the Bamboo cutting seminar at Ki no Sato. Originally, Tenpu Nakamura sensei did bamboo cutting. This is one of the three tests which Tempu sensei gave to Tohei sensei. Tohei sensei was able to pass this test on the first try. After that, Tohei sensei passed this on for everyone to experience.

In bamboo cutting, two people support the ends of a five or six foot length of bamboo. Each end of the bamboo is inserted into a very thin piece of paper, which in turn is held by the sharp blade of a knife. Then, another person cuts the bamboo with a wooden sword. If you try to cut the bamboo with your strength, the thin paper supporting the bamboo will tear on the blade of the knife immediately, the moment the wooden sword touches the bamboo. Also, there will be no damage to the bamboo. However, if you relax completely and use your mind clearly, you can cut the bamboo without tearing the thin paper. This is up to your mind whether you can cut the bamboo or not.

You can learn the following points from bamboo cutting:

- You can learn to use your mind clearly (positively).
- You can relax when you are at an important occasion.
- You can learn correct posture and correct relaxation.
- You will improve your ability to see things deeply.

The most important point is that even if you are young or old, man or woman, experienced or non-experienced, anybody can do this. Students from 9 years old to 84 years old have cut bamboo in the past. On the other hand, if students have experienced cutting the bamboo in the past and not used their mind clearly, then the students would not have been able to cut the bamboo.

I have demonstrated bamboo cutting over thirty times. I have never failed to cut the bamboo. However, one day I was practicing cutting bamboo. On this day, I could not cut the bamboo. (I was so shocked!) This is because I thought, "This is practice" and I did not use my mind clearly. I then realized that it is more important to cut bamboo with Ki, even if only once, than to cut bamboo one hundred times without Ki. This was a great realization for me. I have not lost my Ki since then.

Koichi Tohei sensei said, "Even if you can cut bamboo in this way, this does not mean you are a great human being." The purpose of cutting bamboo is not just to cut bamboo. The purpose is to know the importance of using our mind positively and to master correct relaxation. Then you will be able to apply these principles to your daily life.

You will be able to realize many things through bamboo cutting.

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April 14, 2005

Dead calmness and living calmness

Last week, I told you that correct concentration is calming your mind.

If your mind clings to something, you will not be able to use your mind freely. Then you will not be able to see the whole picture, and you will not judge well. This limited state of the mind is called obsession, not concentration.

Koichi Tohei Sensei defines the state of the mind which clings to something as "dead calmness". On the other hand, if the mind is free from clinging to anything, this is defined as "living calmness".

Here is one example.

One of the apprentices (uchideshi in Japanese) accompanied Tohei Sensei to a lecture. The apprentice was not yet used to accompanying Tohei Sensei, and therefore was very nervous.

There was a vase on the table. The vase was very near the edge of the table, almost ready to fall. Tohei Sensei realized this and said to the apprentice, "Look at that vase." Tohei sensei wanted him to move the vase to a safe place.

However, the apprentice misunderstood the instruction. What did he do? He answered to Tohei sensei, "What a beautiful vase it is!"

The apprentice's mind clung to the vase, therefore, he could not realize other things. His mind was closed to the other possibilities of the moment. If your mind is in a state of dead calmness, you only see partially and you will have difficulty realizing what is. In this way, you will not be able to judge correctly.

However, we often mistakenly use our mind in this way. We cling to many things.

"Only I can do this job". When you keep your work to yourself, this is one of the expressions that the clinging mind comes up with. (Clinging to your own abilities.)

"Because I am old (or young), I cannot do that." "Because I am a man (or woman), I cannot do that." This is also your mind clinging to something. (Clinging to age or gender)

If you are afraid to loose your status, this is also your mind clinging to something. (Clinging to money, wealth, status and honor)

"I could make it in the past. So I will be able to make it this time." "I could not make it in the past, so I will not be able to make it this time, too." If you cling to past experiences (either good or bad), and you do not make an effort to improve, this is also your mind clinging to something. (Clinging to the past)

The problem is that without awareness, our mind clings to something. Once your mind clings to something, you will not be able to use your mind any further. Therefore, you need to be careful about it.

By doing Ki breathing, our mind becomes naturally calm, and our mind does not cling to anything. When I am facing a big decision, I do Ki breathing.

Let's practice Ki breathing together.

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April 07, 2005

Concentration and Obsession

I have recently received a number of questions regarding "concentration".

If you want to achieve good results in some activity, then it is important to concentrate. However, many people find that when they concentrate on something, they become tired easily and cannot continue.

What do you think?

Koichi Tohei sensei explains the difference between "concentration" and "obsession" in the following way:

In Japan, as elsewhere, there is an old saying that "Some people cannot see the forest for the trees". If you fix your eyes on the small picture, you will not be able to see the big picture. Also, in this state of limited seeing, you will tire easily and find it difficult to continue.

This condition is obsession, not concentration.

Concentration means that your mind is calm, and that you can see things as they are; life can be perceived as it is.

It is easy to understand if you compare the state of the mind to the surface of the water in a pond. Koichi Tohei sensei wrote about this in his book, Ki Sayings.

"Like the calm, still surface of the water that reflects the moon and a flying bird, true living calmness is the condition of our mind that reflects all things clearly."

When your mind is calm, it is like a calm still surface of the water. In this condition, the moon and a bird are clearly reflected on the surface of the water as they are.

When your mind is disturbed, it becomes like ripples on the water, and neither moon nor
bird can be reflected on the surface of the water clearly.

Tohei sensei taught me this, and I it showed me the way to the ultimate state of consciousness.
I practiced calming my mind when I had concentrated on something, not straining to concentrate. Once I practiced this, I found that, astonishingly, I was able to truly concentrate.

- When I teach Ki principles at a seminar or lecture
- When I make an important decision or judgement
- When I solve a problem or demand
- When I meet a person
- When I study, or when I read books
- When I write articles
- When I play a musical instrument

Before I wrote this article, I did not begin by sitting down in front of the computer. First, I calmed my mind, then I began writing this article.

If we cling to something, we fail to see it clearly, because we misunderstand this as concentration. However, you will not be able to continue concentrating in this way. You will loose your Ki and become tired.

If you feel that "When I concentrate on something I become tired", then I hope you will understand the difference between concentration and obsession. If you understand this, you will be able to change the way you use your mind.

Again, true concentration means to calm your mind naturally.

As I told you this last week, the best way to calm your mind naturally is to do Ki breathing everyday of the week.

To judge correctly, it is important to see the whole picture, not just a part of it. If you only see partially, or in a limited way, then you will not judge well.

I will talk about obsession more in the future.

Let's practice together.

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