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Posts Tagged ‘keel brightman’

chopwoodcarrywaterWhen Bankei was preaching at Ryumon temple, a Shinshu priest, who believed in salvation through repetition of the name of the Buddha of Love, was jealous of his large audience and wanted to debate with him.

Bankei was in the midst of a talk when the priest appeared, but the fellow made such a disturbance that Bankei stopped his discourse and asked about the noise.

“The founder of our sect,” boasted the priest, “had such miraculous powers that he held a brush in his hand on one bank of the river, his attendant held up a paper on the other bank, and the teacher wrote the holy name of Amida through the air. Can you do such a wonderful thing?”

Bankei replied lightly: “Perhaps your fox can perform that trick, but that is not the manner of Zen. My miracle is that when I feel hungry I eat, and when I feel thirsty I drink.”

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Bankei was not impressed with the Shinshu priest’s story because, to Bankei a true miracle is Zen.  Bankei understands that when Zen is present one performs at their best and that is when a true miracle can happen.  Kayaking teaches one this by the way we mentally approach a certain play move, rapid, or river.  In Zen a kayaker can perform at his/her best by being totally focused on the task at hand.  On the other hand, if one focuses on an entire rapid he/she will loose focus and perform under their natural ability.  For example, Gorilla rapid on the Green River was one of the first true class five rapids I ran.  When I first starting running it I was extremely intimidated because all I could see was one huge, scary rapid with lots of potential for carnage.  With more kayaking experience I realized that Gorilla was like three, “smaller” rapids instead of one huge rapid.  Further down the line I started focusing on particular moves within these three smaller rapids.  Next, I learned to focus on each individual move within the rapid.  Once, I learned to be in the moment and focus on the present task at hand I started having more success in paddling Gorilla.  Not to say that it doesn’t still make me nervous but it is more manageable when taking a Zen approach.

What is Zen?  To me, Zen is a state of mind where the mind is relaxed yet focused.  Zen is living in the moment thinking about neither the past nor the future.  Because the mind is focused entirely on the present this allows one to perform above their natural ability.  Eastern culture calls this Zen as where western culture would say being in the Zone.

Anyone can find themselves in a Zen state or the Zone.  It could be a musician playing a hard piece of music, a machinist shaving off the last 1/1000 piece of metal off a part, a teacher giving a lecture, a Buddhist Monk meditating, or a kayaker paddling a rapid that is challenging his/her ability.  In speaking of kayaking, or other extreme sports there are three things that must be present to enter Zen or the Zone; a commitment, confidence, and control.

If you kayak long enough you will find yourself in company with someone who is like the Shinshu priest.  This person will be telling you of some miraculous trick they know of and will challenge you to do the same.  It may be paddling a certain river, a particular rapid, etc.  I have found that just because a certain someone can paddle a clean line through a rapid, it doesn’t always mean that I can.  Why is this important?  In kayaking and life it is important to be honest with yourself about your skills and what consequences you are comfortable with.  When you can honestly judge your own skill level you will find yourself with more control that leads to more confidence and this allows total commitment.  When you have control, confidence and commitment you will find Zen more often.

One can find Zen in anything they do.  For me kayaking has been a terrific gateway because kayaking is where I spend the majority of my time.  The Zen I find in kayaking has allowed me to find it more often in other aspects of life.  If you are interested in learning more about Zen I recommend three books.  The first one is, “The C Zone Peak Performance Under Pressure.”  The second is, “The Art and Zen of Motorcycle Maintenance.”  The third book is, “Chop Wood Carry Water.”

– Jason Aytes

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images-2The son of a master thief asked his father to teach him the secrets of the trade. The old thief agreed and that night took his son to burglarize a large house. While the family was asleep, he silently led his young apprentice into a room that contained a clothes closet. The father told his son to go into the closet to pick out some clothes. When he did, his father quickly shut the door and locked him in. Then he went back outside, knocked loudly on the front door, thereby waking the family, and quickly slipped away before anyone saw him. Hours later, his son returned home, bedraggled and exhausted. “Father,” he cried angrily, “Why did you lock me in that closet? If I hadn’t been made desperate by my fear of getting caught, I never would have escaped. It took all my ingenuity to get out!” The old thief smiled. “Son, you have had your first lesson in the art of burglary.”

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My Son, Dane, 14 years old, has been begging me to take him to on an expedition, with big waterfalls, so he, too, could become an expedition boater, and run the knarr.   I finally accepted the 4’9” 80 pounders request and he accompanied our team to Newfoundland.   His excitement never seemed to be balanced by any concern over the “what ifs” of any unknown adventure and he needed to choose wisely.

When we spotted a monstrous cascading creek coming off the side of a mountain bluff about two miles away we began our trek through the wild landscape with our kayaks on our backs forging our own trail.   The first 50 footer landed on rocks, but a few large cascades below were runnable.  Dane was eager to go first on each, but I made him wait for safety at the bottom; namely me.   Finally, on the third and most difficult one, one that others walked around,   Dane crashed into the rocks at the bottom and was ejected from his kayak instantly, being forced to the bottom by the water and not surfacing for 45 seconds of violent pummeling.

His Dad pulled him to shore, as he was gasping for breath and crying from the magnitude of the experience and the fear it instilled.  Alive and unhurt.    “Now”,  I told him,  “you are becoming an expedition boater.”  “Now you will look at each challenge with more care.”   No more than two minutes later, Nick ran the same drop, but pitched over upside down in mid air and nailed his head as his stern landed in 10” of water from 30’ up.  He knocked himself out and was dazed for hours afterwards as we nursed him back to the truck.   Dane stopped crying and helped Nick get his helmet off.  Dane had learned his second lesson;  he is part of a team and any weakness on his part, is dangerous to the team.

– Eric Jackson

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images1A master of the tea ceremony in old Japan once accidentally slighted a soldier. He quickly apologized, but the rather impetuous soldier demanded that the matter be settled in a sword duel. The tea master, who had no experience with swords, asked the advice of a fellow Zen master who did possess such skill. As he was served by his friend, the Zen swordsman could not help but notice how the tea master performed his art with perfect concentration and tranquility. “Tomorrow,” the Zen swordsman said, “when you duel the soldier, hold your weapon above your head, as if ready to strike, and face him with the same concentration and tranquility with which you perform the tea ceremony.” The next day, at the appointed time and place for the duel, the tea master followed this advice. The soldier, readying himself to strike, stared for a long time into the fully attentive but calm face of the tea master. Finally, the soldier lowered his sword, apologized for his arrogance, and left without a blow being struck.

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Eyes wide open, focused breathing, and a general calm, time seems to fade away to clearity, reactions happen in slow motion, almost like a dream. It’s that moment of calm, that the soldier saw in the tea master. It transends all activities, a face of concentration and tranquility. It’s a state of mind. The tea master did not possess the same skills as the soldier, however, his clear understanding of himself calmed even the most volatile anger.

– Keel Brightman

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