A real lesson in not only mindfulness, but the power to use deeper senses within ourselves to connect with others intuitively and attain harmony in movement, sound and expression. Real kung fu.
“Preparing food is not just about yourself and others. It is about everything!”
– Shunryu Suzuki
It’s true that if I had a lot more time, or when I do have the time at all, I like to invest it in cooking a good meal to serve in my household. Yet when I ask myself why, the answer is elusive, not because I do not know the answer but because it is too difficult to get down into words. The one word I can think of is “joy,” although watching me you would see plenty of focus and no shortage of frustration here and there. Perhaps this is what any act of creation looks like as we learn that we cannot exactly control things, but we can do our best to set things up so that they will naturally happen of their own accord, out of their own nature. When we think about how interconnected everything is, we might also feel that our efforts to set things up from the outside are also futile, unless we realize that we are not working from the outside, but rather are ourselves just as connected. So in the end, we are in a very good position to set things up after all, as we set ourselves in place within ourselves and at the stove, set the prepared ingredients, and set the places for our guests doing our best to anticipate their needs (omotenashi). The result is halfway decent tuna steak with tapenade…at least that’s what it was last night. Tonight……who knows?
I enjoy making simple sushi rolls at home, but would like to give it some more focused effort and become a true tenzo. The film Jiro Dreams of Sushi has been very inspirational to me, not just in terms of its portrayal of Jiro’s mastery of sushi preparation, but even more so for its pearls of wisdom for following the path of mastery and attainment. Along these same lines, I aspire to own a great set of Japanese knives someday. I recently came across this beautiful and inspiring infomercial from Kamikoto. There is another one I will post that is even better!
Sometimes I get a bright idea and think “Yeah! That’s the ticket!” Today’s idea was “Tai Chi Golf” — incorporating the principles and techniques of taijiquan into the game of golf. I didn’t think anyone had really put it out there yet. Then I found a series of videos by Jake Mace demonstrating something of a technique bridge between Yang style taijiquan and various aspects of the golf swing. It looks like Jake Mace gets some pretty impressive results. For me, a recent golf enthusiast, it affirms the value of my time spent training in both, and the real pleasure of observing the crossover between the two. You can check out Jake Mace’s published videos HERE.
“He always took the time to do everything. That’s being in time” (David Chadwick, writing about zen master Shunryu Suzuki).
The snow has arrived in Minnesota. Now my Kung Fu training will move from my teacher’s driveway to his basement, where we will practice in much more small confined spaces. In these little corners, we will learn that there are possibilities for movement and change no matter how tight circumstances become. This is also the time of year where the added difficulty of snow, ice and cold will teach us to give things (inside and outside of ourselves) the time that they need in order to happen, evolve, renew…or even just be as they are. I appreciate this time of year very much.
I have been studying and thinking about leadership styles recently. Driving home from work, I came up with the idea of “green tea leadership.” It goes something like this…
Green tea leadership style:
Too strong, it is bitter to the taste.
Too weak, it will not invigorate the senses and spirit.
In between, the work is accomplished, and there is no resting in it.
This past Saturday my kung fu teacher David Wong taught his first class since returning from his visit to Hong Kong and China. I was conscious of how much I had missed his personal flair, humor and guidance in my life. My morning thoughts on the way home were about my estimation that I could never learn and be as skilled at kung fu as much as my teacher. I fear that I could ever learn only a fraction of what he has learned in his lifetime. If I ever became a kung fu teacher, everything I know would only be a snapshot, a sample of what my teacher knows. Thinking about it as I drove, these thoughts came to my mind: You might think to yourself, “I will never be great. At best I can only hope to be a small vessel.” But it is important to remember that even a single drop of water contains the essence of all water. Small things contain the essence of great things. Conduct yourself accordingly.