Tag Archives: zen mind

Samurai Reading Sluts: How to Become One

Pile on the fun with books for fun and profit.  :)  Photo from unprofound.com.

Pile on the fun with books for fun and profit. 🙂 Photo from unprofound.com.

Khatz over at ajatt.com has posted an excellent article called “12 Common Reading Mistakes You’re Making That You Need to Stop Making if You Want to Be Thin and Pretty Like Me.”  Just looking at the title and the summary jolted me into re-reading the Japanese book that has been lingering in my man-bag.  Here’s the helpful snippet:

Stop trying to read in massive chunks of time Most of life is waiting. Most of life is disjoint snippets of time: two, three, five minutes here or there. That’s when you read. Stop trying or waiting for some golden multi-hour block . . .

I think that my problem with reading is that I tend to see reading as a marriage til death do us part kind of process.  Probably what might be most helpful is to adopt a philandering, slightly-abusive role model towards books:

  • Read more than one book at a time.  I have light books for taking on the train, heavy books like Zen and the Art of Making a Living that I work through pages at a time, and books that are pleasing but sufficiently unexciting for right before bed.
  • Graffiti and abuse certain books.  Yeah, get all juvenile delinquent on some of your books.  Some books have been untouched on my shelves for years, and now I am getting use value from them by writing on them, dog-earring the pages, and just making sure that I’m not reading passively.   My music theory book has gotten and will get the most abuse.
  • Read for free until you don’t.   I just recently got a kindle.  It’s so easy to sample books and eventually I end up buying something and supporting authors.    Just skimming and sampling seems to be good for my brain.  I’m out there searching for good ideas.  As of two days ago, I just discovered reading “on the cloud.”  It is so nice to be able to jump into a book from the computer, to the iPad, to the iPhone.
  • Quick and dirty.   Slow and savor the flavor.  It’s all good.  There are so many ways to enjoy reading.   Skip pages.  Read the end first.   (I used to read history books that way.)   Read the first sentence of each paragraph until you hit something good.  I recently read Guitar Zero that way.  Enjoy all the positions.

Most importantly, have fun.  Ironically, this is one of the key messages of the Japanese book that I am reading, 情報量が10倍になるNLP速読術 (Increase Your  Information Rate 10 Times Through the NLP Speed-Reading Method).   There’s a lot of NLP talk about “anchoring” and “filtering” in this book.  Basically, when we have negative thinking towards reading we become less efficient
in retaining information and even continuing to read.

One of my lockers where I cage my books and laptop.   Reading closely and savoring each word still has its place, but adding a little velocity to your learning game through speed reading or pre-reading is a way to shake things up.   Do you have any books on your shelf that you think you should read but haven't.   A quick read might give you the lay of the land to read it or get the best part out.  Feel free to eat the best part of the tuna!

One of my lockers where I cage my books and laptop. Reading closely and savoring each word still has its place, but adding a little velocity to your learning game through speed reading or pre-reading is a way to shake things up. Do you have any books on your shelf that you think you should read but haven’t. A quick read might give you the lay of the land to read it or get the best part out. Feel free to eat the best part of the tuna!

The book includes exercises on getting in the right frame of mind to enjoy reading, but it’s also important to change the way we read in order to continue to read.  There’s no one way.   You are not contracted to any book.  Speed date.   Skip lines.   Pick them up off the street.  Have fun.  🙂

One Minute Review: Enjoy Yourself to Learn a Foreign Language

I’ve been dipping into this book by Masami Utsude about adding speed to your learning methods. He recommends learning English by watching and reading materials that you enjoy. Good advice for learning any language!

As part of my Japanese immersion project, I have Japanese books stashed all over the place: in  my man bag, by my bedside, by the computer, etc.  At the Writer’s Room, where I spend 45-60 minutes each morning studying or working on my writing, I have several books.  At the top of the pile is 1分スピード記憶勉強法: Study Method with One-Minute Speedy Memorizing by Masami Utsude.   I dip into this book every now and then because it is simply laid out, has a lot of pictures, and is inspirational.

A whole section is devoted to learning English,  but these methods and ideas can be applied to any language–for fun and profit :).  Here are some of my dash of soy sauce translations of some of the best ideas.  [I put brackets around where I mistranslated “English” into “foreign language.”]

Guarantee Improvement While Having Fun!:  One Minute English Study Method.“楽しいながら確実に上達!「1分スピード英語勉強法」”  

Unless the text is completely compelling, these days I am choosing Japanese books with pictures. 1分 has a lot of fun pictures. This one emphasizes that it is more fun and easier to learn a foreign language through quick and repeated reviews.

Utsude argues that one of the main reasons Japanese people don’t learn English is because they don’t give themselves enough opportunities to read, speak, and hear English.   The best way to actually review is to read, speak, and hear materials that you enjoy in a foreign language.

The Shortcut to Learning a [Foreign Language] is Repetition“英語上達の近道は「くり返し」増やすことに尽きる”  

Utsude explains that you wouldn’t expect to become a better swimmer by reading a book and getting into a pool once.  To become better you need hundreds of hours of actual practice.  Utsude was writing about English but you can fill the blank above with any language or skill you want.

What are the Two Walls that Keep (Japanese) People from Learning a [Foreign Language]?日本人の英語勉強を阻む「2つの壁」とは?  

  1. Your Environment:   Are you surrounding yourself with good materials in your target language?  Ajatt.com recently echoed this sentiment by explaining how learning a language is a lot easier when you modify your infrastructure: “So any issues an able-bodied, sound-minded adult is going to have with learning (getting used to) a language will be entirely due to infrastructure, not linguistics, not biology.”
  2. Your Self (自身)  Are you clear and confident in your goals and motivation for learning a foreign language?

In Order to Remember/Review Your [Target Language]  Relax and Surround Yourself With Materials You Like ラクにくり返しをして記憶するための一番コツは、あなたの「好きなこと」「得意なこと」と英語を結びつけてしまうのです。

It’s the infrastructure issue all over again.  Masami Utsude urges his readers to “review” while having fun learning from English dramas, movies, newspapers, etc.  It’s the reason that I am reading Japanese books about learning.  I have a natural motivation that keeps me motivated and moving forward.  No birds.  No stone.


How to Smoothly Read [Foreign Language]  Books 英文がスラスラ読める効果的な方法

  1. Read the Table of Contents First–It Gives You a Road Map and Gives You a Native Experience of the Foreign Language
  2. Relax and Read without a Dictionary
  3. Read the Titles
  4. Make Sure You Are Reading the Genres You Enjoy

Getting The Most out of Watching [Foreign Language] Television and Movies「好きなテレビドラマー映画を楽しんで観る」がコツ 

  1. Watch without subtitles.   Even if you don’t understand just enjoy the atmosphere of the movie and let it fill your heart.
  2. Repeat scenes that you love over and over again.
  3. Let yourself feel like you are part of the movie or drama.  “Shadow” the dialogue and repeat what they say.


1分スピード記憶勉強法 has a lot more great ideas about learning foreign languages.  If you are a follower of AJATT or antimoon, these ideas are not new.  In a way, that’s why I chose the book–because it affirms messages that I already understand and know.   Reading about these methods reinforces both the positive advice and Japanese itself.

In learning a foreign language there is a time for pushing and a time for relaxing into the language.  Both are important.  I push by making new flashcards, reading definitions of Japanese words in Japanese, and studying flashcards.   I relax into the Japanese by listening to Japanese music, television, movies and by random channel and web surfing.   I’m not “fluent” yet but I consider it a milestone that I just read Japanese books for fun now.

Don’t give up on your dream of learning a foreign language.  Take a minute to have some fun.


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Little Moves, Great Power: Lessons from the Cowardly Samurai

If I were to really be a samurai, I would probably be a samurai during the Tokugawa era, when the country was pretty much unified and most samurai were bureaucrats sitting around in the entertainment district trying to write haiku or decide which spot would be best for lunch.   Everything I learned about the fighting arts I learned from two weeks of Aikido. (and when I got tricked into learning to fight by a slow moving Chinese guy–see below)   I left my gi at the dojo almost 18 years ago.  If you see it,  it’s mine.

This is the only evidence of my martial arts “prowess.” I stopped going to the Tai Chi studio over five years ago, however I still do a set of exercises called Nei Kung. I also dispense advice based on my superficial knowledge of these arts. 🙂

I may not have a fighting license, but I do have a poetic license which allows me to dispense Aikido life lessons.  If you’d like to skip my stories and metaphors here is the “Little Moves, Great Power” cheat sheet:

  • “stretching” is activity
  • you have to learn how to fall
  • a little each day is better than nothing
  • slow helps you go fast
  • one small mastered move can transform the potential of your power
  • you don’t always have to fight head-on– roll with the force of the obstacles
  • stay grounded but loose

“Stretching” is activity/learning

When I started Aikido, I thought it was pretty funny that we started the class with little hand stretches.  One of them involved putting the thumb of one hand on the back of the palm and torking the wrist a little bit.   Then I saw one of the master teachers use that very hand stretch to flip a dude on to his back.   Don’t underestimate the power of whatever stretch activity is part of what you are trying to expand in your life.   Guitar scales and warm ups have the power to transform your playing.  Brainstorming and free-writing could change the way you write.  Shadowing, babbling, and playing around can put the sizzle in learning a foreign language.


You have to learn how to fall

In addition to those puny little hand stretches, the Aikido folks also practice how to fall.  They practice rolling into the falls to avoid injury and also as a defensive/offensive strategy.  What a perfect metaphor for learning.   When it “doesn’t work out” how are you going to fall?  Ready to spring up again and try a different approach or are you going to leave your uniform at the dojo and never return again? (Like a certain person I know?)

A little each day is powerful

Many years later I stumbled across a Tai Chi center near my old neighborhood in Hell’s Kitchen.  Hey, this is Tai Chi, I thought, it’s gotta be easy.  C.K. Chu, the sifu, would come around and teach me a new move each day I came and I kept adding to the form.  Uhm, ouch.

I stumbled on to the Tai Chi Chuan Center in the late 90’s. A wonderful, quiet place in the heart of Times Square, with dedicated but not pushy teachers and students. Photo from http://www.ckchutaichi.com/chu.shtml.

Slow helps you go fast

Eventually I learned that if you sped up the Tai Chi form it is actually a fighting art.  I thought Tai Chi was something I could do while my crystals were getting patchoulied.  But then one day sifu showed us how those curvy little moves are actually powerful thrusts and parries.   Big surprise.  Going slow can be challenging and helpful in many fields.  In guitar, using a metronome and practicing difficult moves at a very slow tempo and then graduating to a faster tempo can build accuracy and fluency.

Khatzumoto at AJATT is quick to mention the power of small but also mentions that you shouldn’t wait for magic bullets and magic methods.  He suggests in “Three Minutes Of . . .” that you work small and:

  • Don’t hold your breath until you figure out some mythical, I dunno, “Aryuvedic”, “correct” way of breathing
  • Don’t stop drinking water until you analyze every brand that exists
  • Don’t get it right. Get it started. Don’t get it good. Get it going. Don’t get it finished. Touch it. Don’t do it. Do three minutes of it.

Don’t wait for your mojo to get to the dojo.

You don’t always have to fight head-on–roll with the force of obstacles

Part of Aikido and Tai Chi/Push hands is learning how to roll with the force of your opponent and use it as part of your defense.  The force of your opponent’s punch with the rightly guided defense move can be used against your opponent.  (At least that’s what they told me 🙂 )   It makes me think that as far as learning tools you need to find ways to roll with the resistances to learning and use them.  Are you too busy reading trashy Hollywood celebrity news to learn French?  Find French celebrity news websites and look at all the trashy pictures.  Two birds. No stone. No killing.

Tai Chi works on more levels than I can write or even know about. It is supposed to activate “chi” and help your health. However, I was surprised by how most of the moves were powerful fighting moves. Key to all of this is staying grounded and fluid at the same time. Image from CK Chu Tai Chi.

Stay grounded but loose

The other day I was talking to a fellow dad at the playground.  He used to be a boxer and he still trains.  We were relaxing and talking while our little ones were playing in the sandbox and he made a point and brushed me on the shoulder.  He nearly knocked me off my feet.   The great ones in any field are grounded in their field but loose.  They “fly like a butterfly but sting like a bee.”  Whatever you are learning, analyze and master the basics but stay loose, stay grounded, find the different angles, and enjoy!

In a Learning State of Mind: Samurai Reading is Samurai Singing

Get in a Learning State of Mind

The time that you can wake up to what you can do is now.  As you follow your dreams and learn what you’ve always wanted to learn you need persistence.  You also need to bob and weave.  You can change your materials and your learning approaches like a time shifting ninja.

I’ve been taking photographs of pages from books that I find inspirational or interesting. This is from Kenichiro Mogi’s Japanese book, “Only Do Good Things With Your Brain.” This phrase here means that developing happiness helps your brain grow. Happiness, learning, happiness. A non-vicious cycle.

However,   I’ve also come to realize lately is that you can also change your state of mind.  Yes, you can change your materials and your methods and you should always be awake to that.   But you can also change your mind, and that can make a world of difference.  Before I lose the thread of what I want to say in a jet-lag haze (just got back from Japan two days ago), here are some quick tips to help get you get in a learning state of mind:

  • Check your breathing and your posture.   Open up.  Breathe deep.
  • Smile towards towards your work and tell yourself, “I am going to look for what is fun in this.”
  • Be gentle with yourself.  Do you point and laugh at children that are learning how to walk?
  • On the other hand, don”t try to bliss out.   You don’t have to motivate yourself to do what is odious to you.  Put that Napalm for Idiots book in the trash.  You don”t have to know every fact or keep every flashcard.  Choice is a loving act.

The other day, I was looking at my Samurai notebook and really feeling resistant about looking at it.  I had been resisting looking at it for days.   Part of the reason I was feeling this resistance was because I had filled my journal with “obligatory” notes from online courses from my job, etc.  I realized this recently smiled, took  relaxed breath and a looked at one of the positive goals in my Samurai notebook and turned a chore into a joy and challenge.  I also made a decision to quickly skip over things that didn’t interest me at the moment.  My samurai reviews have been going better ever since.

“Don’t focus on being negative.  It won’t work anyway.”

In one of Khatzumoto’s emails as part of my Silverspoon (a Japanese immersion service) experience he writes something like, “don’t focus on being so negative.  It won’t work anyway.”  (Khatzumoto sends out emails containing both an inspirational quote—sometimes brutal, sometimes sublime, sometimes cheesy. )  In the daily “sprints,” Khatzumoto asks that you do what I would call an affirmation (though I think the youngster would probably choose a “hipper” phrase.)   “Why do I choose to touch Japanese every day” is just one example.

A sign for guitar classes in Numazu. I want to take guitar classes and study how to play guitar with Japanese materials. Use what you love to learn. Loving two birds with no stone!

Part of the reason I keep recommending Khatzumoto’s site, ajatt.com, is because he is constantly finding ways to challenge states of mind that get in the way of doing what seems impossible.  His site is about learning Japanese but just check out his site and replace learning Japanese with whatever “impossible” goal you have in mind.  Here’s a start.  I want to turn this into a bumper sticker.  (I just need a car first):

“Keeping the Game Alive: Self-Abuse Ruins Everything, So Be Nice To You


Take a look around you, inside of you.  What seems impossible?  What’s one little step you can take.  Breathe.  Smile.  Open a new page.  Samurai reading is samurai singing.  Samurai singing is samurai learning.

Online Guitar Lessons

Zen–Suggestions for A Simple Life

Samurai Book Review/Preview:  禅、シンプル生活のすすめ or  Zen:  Suggestions for Simple Living by Shunnmyo Masuno

Half the fun/learning is just browsing. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized the book was Zen based. (I read everything but the biggest kanji on the cover.)

I am going back to the roots of Samurai Mind Online.   When I began this blog I was inspired by Japanese self-help writers as way to learn how to use my mind better while learning Japanese .  I was browsing through a Numazu bookstore and found a nice little pocket sized book.   It was until I got home that I actually noticed the biggest kanji on the cover and realized it was a Zen based book.  Samurai score!

I am enjoying just reading the chapter titles.   The chapters are bite-sized but I haven’t gotten around to reading the  innards.   There are some great hints for leading a powerful, simple life.  Here are a few of my faves.  As always, take my translations with a dash of soy sauce.   Use it for your life or for your sentence sampling if you are studying Japanese.

  1. 十五分、早起きしてみるーーTry waking up fifteen minutes earlier.
  2. 朝の空気をしっかり、味わうーーReally take in the morning air.
  3. 脱いだ靴を整えるーーWhen you take off your shoes, arrange them neatly
  4. いらない物を捨てるーーGet rid of things that you don’t need
  5. デスクの上整える^^Arrange your desk neatly (uh-oh)
  6. 一杯のコーヒ^を丁寧に淹れる–Serve Up Your Coffee Mindfully
  7. 食事をおろそかにしないーーDon’t neglect your meals
  8. 食事では、一口ごとに箸を置くTake Only One Bite-Full with Your Chopsticks
  9. 好きな言葉を探す^^Search for Words That You Really Like
  10. 持物を減らすーーReduce the Amount of Stuff You Carry Around
  11. ベランダに小さいな庭をつくるーーCreate a Small Garden on Your Veranda
  12. 自分の手で自然に触れるーーTouch Nature With Your Hands
  13. 寝る前は嫌いなことを考えないーーDon’t Think About Negative Things Before You Go to Sleep

    My Un-Zen desk at the Manga Cafe.

  14. 今できることを一生懸命にやるーーDo everything you are doing now with gusto
  15. ときには、考えるをやめてみるーーTry to Stop Thinking Every Now and Then
  16. 起こっていないことで悩みないーーDon’t Worry About Things That Haven’t  Happened Yet
  17. 仕事を楽しむーーEnjoy your work
  18. 悩むより動くーーMovement is better than worry
  19. 人と比べないーーDon’t Compare Yourself to (Other) People
  20. 平凡な一日こそ、感謝するーーBe Grateful for the Average, Every Day Things in Life

This book didn’t make my browsing cut but I like the message. I think the title is something like ‘Nothing is Pointless.’ More Buddhist self-help, please!

Of course, this all brings me to the question:  Is Zen Zen because its Japanese or are the Japanese Japanese because of Zen?  The answer is probably yes.

Will all of this help you?  I don’ know.  I do know my mother in-law is thrilled I neatly arranged the shoes.  🙂

Cut Through Indecision: Let Go and Let Samurai

“Chase two rabbits and lose them both” (nito otte itto mo ezu). This Japanese proverb is a graphic picture of the mind which is divided in its purpose, and therefore loses that which it would gain . . .

In the martial arts, the hesitant abiding mind is considered to be the most vulnerable to attack. The main thing is to get moving. You cannot balance on a bicycle unless you are in motion. Once you are moving you can adjust your course. . ..  William Reed. Aikido expert and business consultant


So many rabbits too little time. I spent the day at Makai Farms in Fujinomiya. Language immersion and family time. Killing two rabbits with one stone? Ouch!

Indecision can be a time and motivation killer.  I know.  I struggle with it every day.  Sometimes I lose precious time playing around with Japanese because I agonize about which would be the right method.   Should I finish a japanesepod101.com or iknow.co.jp lesson or should I do something fun in Japanese.   If I decide to ‘have fun’ in Japanese, I agonize about what would be fun.

The key would be to keep moving, as Samurai Renaissance William Reed explains.   As I’ve explained before, I am currently doing Silverspoon, a a subcription program where I get daily recommendations of what to do and study in Japanese.  Khatzumoto, the webmeister behind AJATT, deftly calls it structure without stricture.  I like having a structure not just to have a structure but also because it gives me something to rebel against.   You want me to watch anime all day today?  Eff it…I think doing a japanesepod101.com lesson might be more fun today.

A friend recently asked me what I would do to create a program to get more people writing.  One of the main suggestions I offered is to simply get a timer and write.   I am not Shakespeare but I am writing.   When I get stuck writing about a specific project, I get out my timer and go to the ‘blurts’ section of my documents and complain, scream, whine.   Many times I come up with ideas for chapters or blog posts.  Sometimes the blurts are just kitty litter、but at least I am moving.   ‘ Once you are moving you can adjust your course.’

We spent some time at the sheep races. Which sheep to pick? Indecision. As Khatzumoto says. ‘Just pick. Click. Move on with your life.’ 🙂

In his article, Action is Easy.  Decision is Hard Khatzumoto puts it more bluntly:

So stop being such a queen and just pick whatever. Decide. Either way, it’s easy in that all action in your cushy, sedentary life is easy. It’s easy to do; it’s easy not to do, and — now that you’ve given up the duh-rama — it’s easy to pick as well.

Go on, timebox it. 90 seconds. Pick. Click. Move on with life.

Take out your Samurai katana and cut through indecision and do something in the direction of your dreams.   And, if you see me on the road vacillating, give me a swift kick in the samurai.

Samurai Dance

“Every day I count wasted in which there has been no dancing.”–Friedrich ‘Shake What Your Momma  Gave You’  Nietzsche

I’m staying with my wife and my daughters in a a little town called Yui.  It’s famous for it’s Sakura ebi shrimp and the fact that it is shown on NHK television when the waves from a approaching typhoon crash across the interprectural highway.   It is a good trip.  In the mornings I’ve been able to get away and hike among the farms.  I’m living the slug life, yo.  

Have you ever watched a Studio Ghibli movie and watched a cartoon slug wander down a plant. They are slimier in real life.

I can tell it’s a good trip because when my daughters play with their cousins, they vehemently tell me to go away.

We are also here to enjoy the matsuri or festivals.   This weekend, at night this sleepy little town is transformed into a festival of lights.  My shaky little iPhone pics won’t do justice to it.

My daughter, Sakura, especially enjoys 盆通り, or bondori.   This is basically a festival dance.   Anyone can come dance around the yagura, a large beautifully lit central platform where the musicians and drummers play.   


The central platform around which bondori dancers dance. There’s something primal in a maypole kind of way about this kind of festival dance.

There are different dances but it usually involves stylized hand and arm movements and very little moving of the hips.   What I love about this festival is how many different types of people come.   It’s cool to watch tough guys twirl their hands delicately in the air.   (Not that there is anything wrong with that.)   It’s kind of amazing that people have been coming to dance together for hundreds of years.

Last night I saw an old couple dancing.   The woman was pushing his wheelchair in the general directions that the other dancers were moving.  The man’s had moved like eagles above his wheelchair. 

That’s how I want to live–grasping every minute that I can to dance in some way.    It’s why I woke up this morning and walked to the hills and farms above the local zen temple.   It’s why I swim through lameness totry to keep on writing.  Join me.  Keep dancing. 


Above the zen temple–from the hills where you can really see far.



Take Advantage of Sleepless Moments: Tales of the Jetlag Samurai

Jetlag can be a drag, but there are its advantages.   This morning I woke up at 4:30 a.m and walked out to the rising sun.   After purchasing a canned espresso drink

Fueling my jetlag with canned coffees.

from the local vending machine (they are everywhere!), I headed out for a morning walk.  I saw Mount Fuji in the distance, with its little trails of snow.  My little iPhone picture can’ t do justice to Fuji-san, but seeing this ancient volcano is one of the perks of waking up way early.

This visit to Japan is slightly different.  I can understand a little bit more, I can read a whole lot more, but I still know just enough Japanese to get me in trouble.

However, I am also better “armed” with a smartphone.  This morning not only was I able take these “stunning” landscape pictures but I also took pictures of signs along the park for future reference.  I’d always meant to write down these signs and translate them later but when you are walking you don’t want to break the flow of the walk.   A quick snapshot and then I’m gone.  Jetlag samurai on the prowl.

Later, by the beach, (not as romantic as it sounds), I was able to use my Midori app and look up a few words and insta/presto turn them into flashcards. Jetlag lifehack.

It’s better to get a full night’s sleep and I know I can’t keep this up for ever.  But it brings up a point Furuichi-san makes in his books.   Take advantage of sleepless moments to study something and explore.  Usually after 20 minutes, I can go back to sleep.   However when my body is telling me that it 5:30 in the afternoon, I take the opportunity to use this “awakened” moment to be out in nature and among the vending machines.  🙂  Every moment is precious for the jetlag samurai.  zzzzzz.

This time on my visit to Japan, this samurai is “armed” with an iPhone, ready to capture sights, sounds, and random kanji on the fly.

Think Genki: As a Samurai Giveth, A Samurai Receive(th?)

My “office space” when I’m in Japan. Well-lit, computer and internet access, and as many Calpis, coffee, and assorted drinks as human could tolerate.

Preparing for Take-off

The house-sitter is secured.  Passport is in order and samurai is ready to go to Japan.  My bags are not yet packed but somehow I’ve found a few minutes to read my trashy self-help book, 毎朝1分で人生は変わる:One Minute, One Action in the Morning will Change Your Whole Life.  Challenge #7 tells the reader that whatever energy you give to others is the energy that comes back to you.   [If your Japanese is better than mine, please correct me in the comments, and excuse my punctuation because I am on a Japanese keyboard in manga cafe.]

 The Challenge

「元気」はあげればあげるほど自分に返ってくる。 The more good energy you send out the more good energy comes back to you. Miyake-san goes on to add:


Samurai translation:  If you want people to like you, you need to start by liking people.  Once you start doing this, people will start liking you.   If you want to be `genki` [energetic, excited, happy], you should be happy and excited abou the people in front of you.  After a while, you will also become `genki.`

So Far, Not So Bad

Going to the airport was a perfect opportunity to test this new habit.   Usually, I am cranky as hell as soon as I have to take off my shoes and go through security.  It was still annoying, but I made a decision to send out positive vibes.  (Yes, I know, so 60s!)  I had a cornucopia of moments to turn beyond annoyed at people to sending out good thoughts.   🙂

If sending positive vibes doesn't work!

If sending positive vibes doesn’t work then this will have to do.

Does it work?  I don`t know, but I realized how much time I spend spinning out negative thoughts and doubts.   What a waste of energy!  If anything, making a point of sending out good thoughts stops the cycle.

Stop the Cycle of Negative Thoughts

The day I left for Japan, I had the pleasure of being at a friends wedding.  He was marrying another man and it was great to celebrate the beginning of that journey with him, his partner, and friends and family.  At the end my friend explained that there were people who could not make it to the wedding for various reasons and he asked us to send healing and positive thoughts in their direction.  My friend happens to be a Buddhist, but you don`t have to subscribe to any creed to practice this.   Golden Rule anyone?

I don’t know if I will remember to continue this habit, but it can’t hurt.  Let the summer of positive vibes begin, man!!!


Battling iDistraction: Samurai Goes Old School

From Miyajima Island

Hint:  given the topic of this post see if you can resist hitting any links until you get to the bottom of the post

I keep an iPad and several books by my bed.  I like to throw in a few minutes of study before I go to bed.  I pick something interesting yet not totally stimulating.   I find that two pages of a book in Japanese are enough to push mind a little forward and also overwhelm me and help me to sleep.  I also like to follow Japanese lessons on japanesepod101.com.  The information is useful, the grammar lesson are great but after fifteen minutes of reading a pdf or listening to a dialogue, I’m ready to drift into la-la land.

Driven to Distraction

But the iPad is a little dangerous.  I can check my lessons there or follow Japanese links. But the pretty little Facebook button calls and I have to just check it for a little bit.  Maybe there is a fascinating (or not) link to an article, and then I’m gone.  What was my intention?   What happened to my time?

Going Old School

I’m not abandoning my electronic toys.  The convenience and tools are just too elegant and fun.  These days I am enjoying reading about daruma, these funky Japanese dolls that are actually based on the story one of the founders of Zen in Japan.  I love that I can read the wikipedia page that’s loaded on to my iPhone.  I love that I can tap on to a Japanese word and get a definition.

But I’ve noticed these tools can turn into toys that encourage your “monkey mind.”   I’m not a Buddhist, but I play one on the internet. 🙂 “Monkey mind” means that you grab at whatever catches your attention in the moment.  One moment you are eating a banana and the next moment you are picking bugs out of your friend’s fur in a tree.  One moment you are setting out to study Japanese Zen schools of thought and then the next moment you are listening to “Tied to the Whipping Post” on Youtube.

Monkey on Miyajima Island. The fence is actually to keep the humans out of the monkey territory. Now, who has the monkey mind?

You don’t have to spank your monkey mind.  Exploring, goofing off, wandering aimlessly all have valuable roles to play.   But lately, if I find my self too iDistracted I resort to the following:

  • Read a book.   There are very few apps on a book.  Follow one mind.  If you “have no time” take five minutes a day to read.  Skip over parts that don’t interest you.  I just pulled out Marius B. Jansen’s The Making of Modern Japan.  800 pages.   So far. So Sekihagara good.
  • Write in and review your samurai notebook.   Follow your own mind for a while.  What are your thoughts, plans, goals, noticings? Review your notebook and enjoy.  Even if your notebook is filled with interesting quotes from other people they are your gatherings.   Reviewing your notebook reminds you of where your mind has been.  It anchors you.
  • [Practice what you preach alert]  Meditate.

Well, if you made it to the bottom of this post it means you got past the iDistraction and “monkey mind.”  Congratulations.  Gotta go see my friend about a banana, his fur, and something about a whipping post.