2012: Year of the Koan

It is a rare event, but I do occasionally browse the stats for this website and puzzle over why Google directed you to me from so far away, why anyone would be interested in that old post, or why you picked it up and thought to build a commentary around it. Sometimes it’s a worthwhile exercise, like last night when I saw that someone found “News from Inside the Cave,” a post from December 2010. Go ahead and click it if you like–I did; it’ll pop up in a new window so you don’t lose your place here.

One year later, I can see where I was. Now, I can plot where I am. Join them with a line and I can see a trajectory of sorts. I can say positively that, in spite of all of the chaos we encounter from day to day in life, I met those objectives in one form or another, though not necessarily as I would have envisioned. Form, it seems, is not guaranteed…

If we took a snapshot today, I would say that formal Aikido practice has faded away. I saw that coming as my Zen practice grew: Aikido became a laboratory for exploring Zen–and particularly the koan–on every level, and progressed to become one means to convey some of what I found to people who spoke Aikido. As this trend progressed, Aikido began to lose its distinction. Focusing on integration, individual components dissolved as any situation became an opportunity to practice the same. Today I will say that, given my own particular circumstances, maintaining an Aikido practice is simply requiring too much conscious effort; as such, you should note in the sidebar that scheduled Aikido classes no longer appear.

What about formal Zen practice? Interestingly enough, it’s taken the same path as Aikido. Formal Zen practice became a laboratory to explore “True Zen,” and then formal practice time became a method to convey findings to people who speak Zen. Now what is it? For now, we should take the last sentence from the Aikido paragraph and replace “Aikido” with “Zen.”

Very well then. What should become of the Tuesday and Thursday, 6:30-8:00 P.M. time slots? We will dedicate this time to public koan practice.

Personally, I can say that koan study has been the most direct, most valuable, and most revealing key to my practice, informing my Aikido and Zen practices, then unlocking other aspects of my life. Koan practice is infinitely portable: it can occur simply in conversation, whether over coffee, over dinner, on a park bench, or on a walk around a lake; then, when you are alone, you can re-examine the exchanges more deeply. You may spar with advanced practitioners to sharpen your skills and learn some new techniques, or perhaps you will be thrown when challenging a stranger. After all, koan exchanges are occurring in plain sight all around you… You will see them if you can tune in to the conversation just beneath the words.

So, for the next round, I challenge you to join me for public koan practice. Local folks are welcome to join me in person, and we may open up via the internet (Skype, Google+, Twitter, etc.) for those more remote. Watch the Twitter and Facebook feeds (links to the right) for details.

I will reconsider formal Zen and Aikido practices later for those who show promise with the koan…

Sound interesting? Your feedback is welcome!

By Joe

Puzzle Wrestler & Mountain Herder. Math & Computer Nerd since the 80s. Longtime linux (current debian, ubuntu, raspian, centos, gentoo), currently fighting feebsd. Over-complicates networks for fun, occasionally secures them for profit. Develops own tools & services (cli, web services, and lately some android). Degrees in Math, Belts in Aikido. Zen, Motorcycle, Ham Radio, Homebrew (Ale, not Radio), Coffee & Tea, some Mandolin & Fiddle, MDA Advocacy (son with Duchenne), …

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