Reflecting beyond the day I found out why.

Zen Found

Published September 18, 2014 in Daily Reflections - 0 Comments

“Isn’t it wonderful?” she said, with her eyes closed and a sharp inhale of the fresh air around us.

My eyes were focused on her smile after finishing a German chocolate cupcake, but teeth weren’t showing and bare feet were firmly grounded.  Her tableside seat in the park chair next to me was unable to influence her perfect posture, which suggested that no measure of chocolate or sugar was influencing this comment.

Asking the question was addressed to no one in particular, though I was the only person within a hundred feet, and perhaps it was even more of a self-directed reflection.  I should have noticed these signs before I stupidly asked, “What?”

She explained her zen moment, eyes opening slowly again with patience as though to convey some measure of sorrow that I was not in empathy with her perspective.  The only time I had witnessed someone meditate deeply was in the heart of Laos, lost in their soul and unaffected by my presence, pants as orange as a monk’s wardrobe, but with no shirt to cover their chest as it heaved in and out from deep breaths.  Water was flowing nearby then as it was now.

“No kids.  They aren’t here to fall in the fountain.  No stress that I need to worry about another meeting,” she whispered.  Her outfit was bright red, in the downtown park of Decatur, and she could have continued but instead closed her eyes.

It was my turn.  My mind, instead of clearing its thoughts, sought happiness for her and attempted to imagine her perspective.  It seemed selfish to focus on me, my needs, or even clearing my own mind.  My eyes needed to close to connect, and the thought of nothing between my ears made me think of death more than peace.  But… meditation is supposed to be good… right?

Eyes closed after hers, and focus shifted to breathing.  In through the nose, out through the mouth.  Slow, methodical.  Judgment about self-focus left and appreciation for perfect temperature, bird sounds, and bubbling water from fountain streams entered.  Thirty seconds seemed too short for a zen moment, but the moment wasn’t selfish or requiring reflection… it rather was about existing “as-is” and appreciation through being present; open passively to the input from around but not allowing any stimulus inside.

This felt familiar… a philosophy that meets an attack and harmlessly redirects it.

Then I remembered why.

Reflecting distracting energy that enters only to return it back to the universe felt eerily similar to the martial arts style I experienced nearly a year ago in Texas from my high school friend, Sam Knowlton, who taught me about 氣, the ki (spirit / energy) in aikido.  The founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, had said a practitioner must be able to “receive 99% of an opponent’s attack and stare death in the face” in order to execute techniques without hesitation.  Having studied at 心身統一合気道会, known as the Ki Society, Sam showed me the power of 心身統一道, Ki-Aikido, a splinter style from its original roots.

Now, having stared death in the face just one month ago, the style appeals even more strongly to me.  受身, receiving a technique, just happened in that thirty seconds, which in retrospect wasn’t too short… it was too long after renewed perspective.  I felt ready, though untrained, to handle more interruptions and safely dismantled them, returning their energy to its originator.

With appreciation, we both rose amidst new vitality and certainly had our own epiphanies as to what a few moments of silence in the park could do for our daily sanity.  We’ll have to try this again soon.