The Nightingale Floor

While visiting the Japanese city of Kyoto I had the great pleasure to walk in the footsteps of my heroes and spiritual mentors, Miyamoto Musashi, Munenori Yagyo and Takuan Soho, across the nightingale floors of the Shogun’s Imperial Palace in Nijo Castle.

This was not a planned visit but happened by accident. We were staying in Tokyo and decided to take the Bullet Train to Kyoto and booked an afternoon walking tour for the following day. On arriving at the hotel we had booked on line we saw an interesting structure across the road and found that it was Nijo Castle.

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After breakfast the next day we decided to go and check out this castle while waiting for our walking tour after lunch. Once inside the castle grounds we discovered the Imperial Palace, but it wasn’t until walking in the palace corridors that the penny dropped.

As we walked down the polished planks of the corridor my wife nudged me and said “listen!” I could hear the chirping and said “it must be a recording”, but no, it was a real and active Nightingale Floor. Then I saw the signs on the static displays in the audience rooms and I realised that we were in the Imperial Palace of the Tokugawa Shogun.

For some odd reason I had thought that the Shogun was based in Osaka and had forgotten that Kyoto was the seat of power at that time. Tears came to my eyes as I realised where I was and who had passed in these corridors before me. Not only the corridors but the whole castle grounds.

I never ceases to astound me just how many significant things happen in life purely by accident. Or do they?

Nijo by Night

Footnote – A Nightingale Floor is formed with close fitting polished boards with the edges not connected so that they move independently when walked on. There are also metal spikes set to the underside in pairs that cross the joins so that they rub together as the boards move, thus emitting a distinctive chirping sound. This will alert anyone sleeping inside the rooms that are surrounded by these corridors to the presence of intruders, Ninjas or assassins.

 

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Making it Matter

Do everything in life with meaningful intent.

If you are not happy with you life then you need to change it. But what if you cannot change it?

There are always tasks in life that we do not want to do, but have to. There are always situations that we find ourselves in that we cannot get out of or away from.

“Do every little thing in the spirit of the ‘thing’ itself” – Samurai maxim.

What this means is to do whatever task is required of you, regardless of how much you may abhor it, with complete attention to every little detail and giving it the best possible effort that you can muster. Totally embrace it and make it your own.

With this philosophy on board you can make any chore into a challenge and obtain enjoyment from the experience of a successful completion.

If you then apply the same principles to all of life then you will find fulfillment. The art of Zen finds immense beauty in the simplest things. There is no need for arduous pursuit of all manner of entertainments, possessions and experienced to obtain a fulfilling life. Fulfillment can be in the completion of the smallest task, or assisting a friend or family member, or even a stranger, just for the sheer enjoyment of a thing accomplished with caring and pride.

Knowledge of the world is only to be acquired in the world and not in a closet.Lord Chesterfield

Do not hide yourself away from life. get out there and do everything that you can imagine, but make it worthwhile.

If you must do it, do it well. If you have to do it for duty’s sake, do it with pride. Take ownership for all of your actions and that will moderate what you undertake. Only in full truth to yourself will you ever realise the full potential of your life and experience fulfillment.

so, don’t be a fool. Be fulfilled!

~ Dent

The Origins of Confusion

“Sometimes, for instance, he would be mesmerised by the sight and sound of rain on the water; the rain on the sea; the rain on a lake; the rain on a stream. He would look up and see the clouds untroubled by the deluge they had let loose and his mind and spirit would be numbed into a trance of understanding. Understanding what, he could not hope to explain. But there was a sense of rightness about the way of the water, a sense which he never drew from Christianity.” ~ From the novel ‘Credo’ by Melvin Bragg.

This passage is relating the thoughts of a Celt warrior of the time of Wilfred, Cuthbert and King Oswald in Northumbria. A Christian convert, but still in touch with his Celtic spiritual side.

This passage has suddenly given me insight into a question that has bugged me for many years.

So many people give lip-service to the Christian faith yet still secretly, somewhere deep down, believe in pagan concepts, not realising that these have become absorbed into traditional Christian methodology and form part of the procedure of the current established church.

Total belief in a single deity has given rise to an attitude of contempt for the spiritual nature of all living things on this earth. It has also given license to ‘fobbing off’ a regard for ‘minor’ elements in life as ‘not being worthy’ of concern or effort, because GOD is looking after that, so why should we worry.

It appears that multi spiritual beliefs achieve a hell of a lot more when it comes to respect for things outside our selves. I have observed much deep understanding and tolerance within the multi-spirit beliefs of the First People and also the Shinto. Their assignment of individual spirits to all things seems a much fairer concept and instils an immediate and intimate relationship between oneself and all elements of nature, each other and also one’s self.

I love the concept of the ‘spirit’ of the horse. Each individual horse has one, then each group of horses has one and then there is one for all horses collectively. This means that each horse is watched over by at least three spirits, But you can keep adding: the spirit of all animals; the spirit of the prairie, the plain, the sierra, sky, mountains, etc., etc.

Horses

It makes me feel great to know that horses are so well looked after.

I look then in horror at the bitter, small minded, hatred mongering coming out of the so-called civilized religions and cringe inside. Does not feel good at all. My heart wants to cry when I see the killing and the injustice that can be acted out in the name of their “God”.

We need to get in touch with ourselves on a better level! Become responsible for who and what we are. Stand up and be seen as caring and sensitive citizens of this planet.

~ Dent

 

Keeping the Faith

I have never lost my belief in God, just changed my terms of reference.

I can remember when I was about 8 or 9 walking home from Sunday school pondering how any grown person could believe in some big dude in a white gown living in the clouds.

I do however subscribe to the belief in a higher, greater power, or  Universal Life Force (Ki in Japanese or Ch’i in Chinese).

Although I was raised in a Christian community and actively involved with church groups during my youth, I have never been able to embrace the ‘God’ concept in that way.

I do also believe in Jesus, the man, a.k.a. Joshua, and all that he stands for, both then and now. I have a high regard for the Church and Christians in general, along with Muslims, Buddhists and other believers who have faith in what they believe.

The reason for this is the questioning undertaken during my teens. When I was 16 I went to church on Sundays and afterward attended Bible Class with other teens. Finding that I couldn’t get the interaction I desired and also finding the discussions very ‘bland’ I started to search elsewhere for the answers I felt were out there, yet hidden.

Since I couldn’t believe in God the same way that others seemed to I wanted to find out why we needed religion at all. Psychology books from my school library lead me on to the work of Karl Jung, Zen and the Asian philosophies.

That is how I came to follow the path, or ‘way’, of Bushido. That is ‘the warrior code’ and is based on the philosophies of Zen and Shinto in general and the teachings of the great Samurai philosophers and warrior monks in particular.

I find it fits with my life very well and have followed this path for the past 40 years. The last 20 years through the practice and teaching of Aikido. Prior to that through the practice of Shotokan Karate and before that, Judo.

The main thing that I discovered from my studies is that we are all different and perceive and accept things differently, moderated and moulded by our unique personalities, upbringing and personal circumstances.

What is truly important is not so much what we believe but how we believe. It is the degree of faith that we exhibit and direct into our belief, whatever it may be, that makes us whole and fulfilled.

I always tell my students “it’s not where you walk, it’s how you walk”.

I also believe and teach respect, tolerance, courage and understanding.

The fear of death diminishes with age and knowledge. Having faced death several times I know that it is the fear of what you leave behind that is the key element. So, be sure to conduct your life in such a way as to leave only good things behind.

This is what will be remembered and this is where, I think, the concepts of Heaven and Hell reside.

~ Dent

 

 

Being Gaijin

The art of being there.

 

I follow the path of Bushido which is the Samurai Code and is basically Shinto based. I pursue this path by the practice of Budo, or the Way of War. This is a martial art in the loose sense of that description, but more specifically it is the study of tactics and strategy through the practice of sword form and following the warrior code in lifestyle and attitude. … Ex Aikido instructor.

From an early age I was always the ‘outsider’, never quite fitting in and I am not quite sure how I arrived at this place.

From the age of 3 years I was raised by grandparents and they being of the older generation, it was then the 50s, I was subjected to the values not far removed from Victorian England. But I still can’t quite get to grips with how my ‘eastern’ turn of mind evolved from all that.

Being raised by non-spiritual people with general Christian values somehow managed to plant me squarely at the doorstep of Zen. When starting to question the values and lessons offered at Bible Classes when I was 17, I soon found myself searching for answers in psychology texts where I discovered Carl Jung and his collective unconscious mind.

Jung talked about Zen, the asian mindset and the practice of ‘do’ arts as ‘ways’ of pursuing and studying the state of ‘oneness’. Judo was the only game in town at that time so that’s where I started when 19 years old. With that and an armload of books on Zen and asian philosophies I slowly surged ahead. I never became totally involved with judo as my musical skills came forward and I began a seventeen year stint performing with rock bands. But the books prevailed!

In 1984 I quit performing, sold off all my gear, bought a gi and joined Shotokan karate where my Sensei introduced me to Miyamoto Musashi and his Book of Five Rings. The fire was lit and I soon discovered his contemporaries, Takuan Soho the Zen monk and Muninori Yagyu who was chief advisor and swordmaster to the first Shogun, both of whom also wrote very significant Budo texts. I still read their works and also books about their lives today. This is how my lifestyle choice of Bushido came about. Karate soon gave way to Aikido in 1989 and a regime of serious training began. By 1996 I had ‘inherited’ my first dojo and was teaching five classes each week.

This was certainly an exciting segment of my life and I will discuss this another time as there were some significant events and experiences that will interest a few readers.

“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become” – Carl Jung. This is one of my favourite quotes and really puts into a nutshell the evolution of my existence. Life really is all about choices and I did make a concerted effort at a young age to shape my development, although I think a lot of it did actually happen subconsciously.

Basically, his is my Journal – Mainly thoughts, observations and advice taken from my journey through the practice and teaching of Aikido from 1990 to 2014, plus observations on life in general. Although I am no longer physically active in the dojo my head thinks I am!

Denton Perry – Aikikai Sandan (2004)

Dojo Cho Greerton Dojo 1996 to 2005 – Kawhia Dojo 2006 to 2009.
Bushin Aikibudo – Tauranga 2010 to 2014

 

(A work in progress – I will add to this as time allows)