The Shambala Chronicles
An Aikido Master’s Guide to Zen
This book was taken from a former Non-Fiction autobiography on Zen, which was formally titled Zen for the 21st Century, written my me, David. Many years ago I was trained in Aikido by a living Master. I have made all my male hero’s Aikido Masters, including Jimmy Meriweather. So I applied my personal story and teachings to this character. This could also be published as Non-Fiction, since I still have the original book.
During his last year with the Portland Police Bureau, especially during his last two months, Captain Jimmy Meriweather spent most of his working hours alone in his office.
Taylor Banks thought he was meditating the hours away, but she was mistaken. Meditation only took around two hours of his day, and the other four hours were spent writing this book about Zen.
Jimmy went back and forth on whether to write an Aikido book, or a Zen book. In the end he realized that his Aikido was Zen. So in the pages that follow, the Six Degree Black Belt Aikido Master is speaking of a way “of being,” which he uses not only in his daily Aikido practice, but in every act of living. At least he consciously tries.
Although the timing of events are out of sequence, Robert St. Clair and Jimmy met, and Robert told him about me, since I had been hired by A.J. St.Clair, Robert’s brother, to edit his Diary of an American Guru book. Like A.J., Jimmy didn’t want anything to do with personal recognition: he wanted to be left alone. He gave me the book, hoping I could get it out to the world, and it would benefit whomever reads it.
With great pleasure I present Sensei and Zen master Jimmy Meriweather’s wisdom.
David Dakan Allison
This is a book about Zen.
I have spent over thirty years studying the art of Aikido. Technically translated, “ai” means love, “ki” is life force energy, and “do” means the way. So what we are talking about is using your life force energy as the way or path to love.
When I say “love,” I’m referring to achieving a peaceful, harmonious, and even joy-filled allowance, recognition, of the Divinity of all life.
This is Zen.
I’m not talking about Zen Buddhism, a teaching which hopefully leads to achieving enlightenment (satori) through meditation in a seated posture (zazen), usually under the guidance of a teacher, or Zen Master. (although I do sit and meditate, and encourage my students.)
I am not a follower of religious teachings: I’m not that sort of Zen master.
Zen is organic. Like in ancient Chinese Taoism, the Tao reminds the student to experience “life” as it truly is: not as a concept. It can’t be experienced while sequestered away in a monastery, or in front of a TV.
Aikido, as well as tai chi, chi gong and other martial arts, is a practice of movement: the awareness of each part of your body at that particular moment: the awareness of your mind; whether it’s engaged, or out of the way. All of this is for another book. My book offers the awareness of awareness.
By living life through the actual conscious awareness of moment to moment everyday movement, the act of “being,” a person will organically become a martial artist, a Master of Love.
My Zen is about finding passion: to engaging in life to the fullest; diving head first into the actual living experience; embracing whatever cards you were dealt, removing the dirt to become the sparkling Diamond of your Reality.
I wrote this book on Zen as a reminder to myself, and you, that we are all on the Path to Love, and we need only remember to use our Life Force Energy correctly.
Here’s to Love, Jimmy
Zen has no meaning.
Before I began writing this book, I had to laugh. If zen has no meaning, what in the hell was I doing trying to give it some?
I could have titled it “How to live your life in peace and harmony without getting totally sucked into the bullshit of the world out there.” That would take some explaining. Anyway, the point is, Zen is all about living in peace, harmony and happiness, in this Here and Now moment. This is contrary to a “normal life,” which is all about dealing with the crazy distractions which upset us.
Imagine floating down a peaceful river on a lovely sunny day, wanting to mind your own business, wanting to be away from all your problems. Suddenly an obstacle pops up, forcing you to jump up to avoid the crash. You settle back down, and then another obstacle pops up, then another, one after another. You fall overboard and lose your iPhone, ruining your peaceful day.
The obstacles are everywhere; the everyday endless drama, which controls your life. Problems at work and at home. Problems with the wife and kids and neighbors and in-laws. Your peace of mind is distracted with politics, religion, sports, disturbing movies, unfulfilled desires, illness, and the damn cat, or the rats in at attic. It all adds up.
Dealing with these obstacles takes a tremendous amount of your time and energy: they blatantly or even subtly over-shadow the happiness you seek. This is the source of stress, which kills us, or at least makes us sick, gives us gray hair and wrinkles, maybe ulcers. You feel stuck, drained, and don’t know what to do about all these damn frustrating obstacles, which over-shadow the happiness you seek.
A “normal life” is filled with the constant invasion of armies of distractions, attempting to get us to submit to their force. Most men don’t realize how often we accept the raping and pillaging of our sense of happiness and well-being. We don’t have a clue on how to float around the obstacles in the river, and/or how to stand tall while facing the angry general of confusing and unpleasant distractions, without blinking an eye.
A “normal life” is a constant reaction to distraction. Eventually we get fed up with the bullshit, and die.
If you were to read this book from cover to cover, its quite possible for you to move from dis-harmony and submission, to real personal power; to be the Zen Master of your life.
Once a monk made a request of Joshu, a Zen Master.
“I have just entered the monastery,” he said. “Please give me instructions, Master.”
“Have you had your breakfast?” Joshu asked.
“Yes, I have,” replied the monk.
“Then,” said Joshu, “wash your bowls.”
The monk had an insight.
What is Zen?
In Zen there is a famous riddle, called a koan: “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”
Your mind will think this is a question, one that deserves an answer, especially if the wise master is asking you. Most students are baffled by this simple koan, because the answer is too simple.
It’s a first step question in a mindless journey.
There is no answer to this question. The Master asked a ‘no thing’ question to the student wanting the ‘no thing’ to be a ‘some thing’ it’s not. The wise old fucker knows that ‘a nothing’ being a ‘some thing’ is impossible. Your best choice of an answer is to laugh.
I’ve yelled at Aikido students who are reaching to grab the nage’s wrist, “Don’t use your hand.” It confuses the hell out of them.
Avoid trying to figure these puzzles out. It’s a waste of your precious time. Read this book and ask a better question, “How can I be happy?”
Happiness is up to you, but if happiness is what you really want, you’ll need to be mindful of getting out of your mind. You’ll need to stop constantly trying to solve the puzzle: stop trying to figure everything out. Stop trying to make it all make sense.
A better question, and the reason for this book, would be, “How can I live what I refer to as a Zen life; a day to day life of peace and harmony? How can I walk in the park undisturbed, and live a happy life?”
The Dalai Lama in his book The Art of Happiness, says,
“When life becomes too complicated and we feel overwhelmed, it’s often useful just to stand back and remind ourselves of our overall purpose, our overall goal. When faced with a feeling of stagnation and confusion, it may be helpful to take an hour, an afternoon, or even several days to simply reflect on what it is that will truly bring us happiness, and then reset our priorities on the basis of that. This can put our life back in proper context, allow a fresh perspective, and enable us to see which direction to take.”
When we step back and look at our life from a fresh perspective; an open-minded overview of what we’re doing: our job, where we live, the stress of the struggle to “make it,” the relationships we’re in, some or most of it often makes no sense at all.
I read about a globetrotting high-level corporate executive who was robbed at gunpoint in her hotel room, and barely escaped with her life. She realized that all her achievements, her so-called success and wealth, weren’t making her happy. Having escaped murder in her hotel room, she had a second chance; a chance to choose a new life. She quit her corporate job and became a Buddhist nun in Bhutan, volunteering to help people in need. Years later she wrote a book about her new life and how happy it turned out to be, after that near-death encounter.
Our #1 question should be, “What the fuck am I doing?”
We think our mind, with all our clever maneuvering, is our savior, when in truth, its the assassin. Whereas the mind strives to make sense out of everything, Zen is the mindless, irrational and non-sense “just do it” other way.
Standing on the cliff thirty feet above the pool, the “kids” are jumping and you’re thinking “no fucking way.” Get out of your mind! JUMP!!!!
Zen is accepting and enjoying the organic flow of life.
In Aikido, as an uke, its best not to plan ahead. Head straight into the kata without hesitation. If it ends in a high fall, which it most likely will, hit the matt, jump up, and do it again. Enjoy the process.
You don’t have to jump off cliffs or take high falls, but you do have a choice. You can engage in life, and therefore have a fulfilling and happy one, doing things you thoroughly enjoy, or not.
Zen, as illustrated in this book, is all about Self-discovery: about experiencing your personal freedom. In order for that to happen, you will need to journey into a Realm of Consciousness beyond society’s definition of success, beyond what your parents expected, beyond mandates of theology and organized religion: a journey to a place void of dogma and “should be/do” philosophies.
I invite you to enter into the consciousness of “Zen:” into a paradox with no reason or conclusion.
Of course the sound of one hand clapping is nonsense.
In all seriousness, we’ve forgotten to enjoy the nonsense. Our mind may want to know ‘what is the sound?’ when there is no what to a sound ‘of one hand clapping.’ One hand without the other can’t possibly clap.
Zen encourages us to stop making taking our life so damn serious.
One hand clapping is a metaphor to how much effort we use in attempting to make sense of everything, to figuring things out, when in fact it is, quite possibly, all nonsense.
Zen is a study of simplicity. As is Aikido.
In order to be simple, we will need to get out of our complex mind. We will need to stop constantly trying to solve the puzzle: a riddle that has no answer.
Einstein said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the same results. The colleagues of the corporate executive who became a nun in Bhutan most likely judged her to be insane, whereas she did the “most sane” thing, which none of them had the consciousness or guts to do.
Zen is all about doing the illogical logical thing.
Reach with your ki, not your hand. Of course.
Zen Humor: Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you’re a mile away and you have their shoes.
M E D I T A T I O N
I sit in meditation for a half hour every day.
Don’t stress out about meditating.
Just sit somewhere quiet.
Don’t do anything for five minutes.
Work your way up.
Sitting calms everything down.
Calms the busy mind and busy body.
Here’s a wonderful exercise, which I do. Think about me as that old black dude, siting on the supermarket bench. No, not clutching a brown bag with cheap wine: just me sitting, watching the world go by.
This isn’t what you think meditation is, but never mind. Maybe you need some red wine, so off you go to the supermarket. Park your car, and then walk to the nearest bench. Check the time. A timer would be good. Set it to buzz after five minutes. Then just sit there. Don’t do anything. Don’t talk to anyone. Sit still, breathe in and breathe out, calm your thoughts. Say “not now” to all the crazy thoughts, which will enter your mind. Do this for five minutes.
This will sort of turn into a “not now” meditation. Or you can repeat, “this is now.’
The first time you do this you won’t believe how long five minutes takes. Five minutes lasts forever: at least ten minutes, while doing nothing.
Then go do your shopping. Say “not now” to all that junk food. Focus on the wine. Once back outside, before you go to your car, sit for another five minutes of “not now.”
Your mind will tell you that you don’t have time for this nonsense. Then what the hell are you doing reading this book? You do have time: you simply have your priorities mixed up.
Go easy on yourself. Once you get in the habit of sitting for five minutes several times a day, you won’t believe how refreshing it is. As a bonus you will observe how frantic people are, rushing from here to there, not slowing down. Except to text. You’ll notice how addicted people are to their smart phones. Are you?
You might decide you don’t want to be one of those “I’m too busy” people. Ah – that’s why you’re reading this book.
Imagine you’re a car. I don’t own one, but that’s neither here nor there. You get out of bed and start your body engine at 7 am. You pee, shave, or do makeup, get dressed, kiss the wife, dog, or whomever, and off you go. Oops: forgot about breakfast. You drive to Starbucks, order a venti latte, (my favorite) and you know you shouldn’t, but you buy the egg, ham croissant thing (I don’t), and then head out on the highway.
At eight you start doing your job. You often forget about lunch, or grab fast food, and keep working until dinner, either going out or cooking at home, doesn’t matter: you’re still on the go. Maybe you meet friends for drinks, before heading home, or watch TV, neither of which relaxes your mind. Before you know it, it’s midnight and you go to bed.
Your physical or mental engine has been going non-stop for seventeen hours. If you do this day after day, year after year, how long do you think even the best automobile engine can take this constant on-the-go punishment? Eventually it will break down. When will you?
This is why I start my Aikido classes with a five-minute meditation: to wash the day away, calm the students down, so they can let go: be with the flow. I’d never let students start doing katas, without the meditation and warm-up exercises. I also end the class with a meditation. I’m teaching Zen.
Don’t forget you’re a human being, and need to rest your engine, many times per day. This is why I suggest the five minute meditations: for you to stop doing and stop thinking.
Five minutes. Cool your engine.
How do you do that? Just turn the fucking key.