THE ZEN MIRROR
The Kingdom Within You
By Jeff Brooks
Hit the makiwara. If you have been practicing for a while you will likely
be transmitting tons of pressure into your target. Anyone can see –
and hear – that you are affecting the world around you. But what
is less recognized is that you are affecting the world within you as well.
If you have had some high school physics you remember Newton’s
law of reciprocal motion:
“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
Actually it is more accurately:
All forces occur in pairs, and these two forces are equal in magnitude
and opposite in direction.
So when the makiwara post bends back under the power of your punch, and
the sound of the impact echoes through the room any karate practitioner
can tell you its not only the things outside you that are influenced.
You are changed as well.
Power is communicated through your body at the same time. With every impact
your muscles absorb power, your connective tissues toughen, your hands
are conditioned, your mind focuses, your hand-eye connection improves
and the power of your will to generate power, also is affected.
For every action we take on the world around us there is a corresponding
effect on the world within us.
This differs from the Newtonian principle in that the inner transformation
is not always equal, and the effects are not limited to the physical.
The implications of this fact are the single most important point to understand
if we are to have a truly cultivated life.
What we do is who we are. If you want your life to be different: do
If you want to master the martial arts, go master the martial arts.
Engage in the action of training many hours every day consistently and
sincerely for decades without regard to the results and no problem you
will become the real thing.
Some people talk about training, speculate about it, read about it, and
only do it an hour or two a week, most but not all of the weeks of the
year. That can help them get in shape and learn some self defense skills,
but that will never lead to mastery.
We are training in something all the time. What are these practitioners
doing in all the other hours of the week? What is their mind doing? What
is their body doing? If their mind is jumping from subject to subject,
from stimulus to TV, computer, radio, road sign, phone call, advertisement,
relentlessly, then that is the condition of mind they are cultivating.
The fact that this chaotic flow is interrupted occasionally by martial
arts is good, but the two hours of martial arts will not replace the effects
of the 166 hours that week spent in other pursuits.
If your mind is pulled by likes and dislikes, anger and desire, jealousy
and fear, continually disturbed by the inputs that cascade our way from
the modern world then that is the mind we are cultivating. If we take
an hour or two a day to train, calmly, powerfully and clearly, if we train
our minds to think clearly the rest of the time and deliberately make
effort to detect when it is turbulent and to return it to a condition
of clarity – even in the midst of action – then that is the
life we cultivate.
People are sometimes displeased with this perspective. They feel pressured
by it. They respond to this by saying they are doing the best they can.
We all want to be stroked. We all like to be praised. We want our prejudices
confirmed and our life habits affirmed. We are praised falsely often.
By charming and persuasive advertisers, salesmen, drug dealers and false
teachers who say: Buy this… you’re doing just fine…
If we want to get the life we want we will have to do the work. The
undeniable fact is we are cultivating something 24 hours a day. Our actions
upon the outer world – what we do, what we say, what we think –
have a transformative effect on our inner world, simultaneously. If we
take our lives seriously we can take command of our schedule, use our
body and mind well, and cultivate a life that is all we want it to be.
Then we can be of use to others and hope to put an end to suffering for
them and for ourselves as well.
If we float, rudderless, allowing the temptations and narcissistic chaos
of contemporary life to carry us along we give up the direction of our
own lives, invite disaster, and miss the chance we have to become true
Mastery, greatness, is not the exclusive right of a special few, ancient
masters, talented gold medalists... There is no limit on the amount of
greatness that can fit into the world. Put yourself on that path and let
nothing stand in your way. You will achieve it.
About The Author:
Jeffrey Brooks, Seventh Degree Black Belt, US Shorin Ryu
Karate, has been the director of Northampton Karate Dojo in Northampton,
Massachusetts since 1987 and director of Northampton Zendo since 1993.
He is author of “Rhinoceros Zen – Zen Martial Arts and the
Path to Freedom.” His column Zen Mirror and other articles appear
FightingArts.com is pleased to announce its first
book: “Rhinoceros Zen –Zen
Martial Arts and the Path to Freedom,” by Jeffrey Brooks, a work
that portrays the dual paths and interplay between Zen and Karate-do.
and easy to read, it is full of insight and wisdom. It is a rewarding
read for any martial artist.
(Softcover, 300 pages, illustrated)