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Polish the mirror and grind the prune.

October 7, 2009 at 5:35 AM

 

Greetings,
one of the reasons I respect adult beginners so much is that they are conforming to a philosophy of life that I hold to be fundamental: if you don’t strive continuously to learn new things then life is not much different from death.  
This seems straightforward enough but it has a number of dimensions  which, in my opinion one needs to constantly reflect upon. Suppose one starts out with a decision to learn something new that challenges you to get out of the rut.  The first thing one often finds is that even the first initial stage of acting upon that decision is hard enough given our propensity for staying all our lives in our current comfort zone.  Other people’s skepticism or hilarity is often a factor here, too.   Having surmounted this, one may then find there is the problem of sustaining our involvement given the sacrifices it may entail which can be as serious as losing touch with or moving away from many of our current circle of associates and friends.  Indeed,   when we make a choice to grow rather than stagnate and when someone close does not wish to follow in some sense then the end result can be the destruction of apparently solid relationships, marriages or what have you.   
After all this we may still need to face the more long term  final question which is as scary as it is subtle: does staying with this new venture and exploring it in ever greater depths  constitute `a new and adequate challenge?`   Or is it as deceptive a rut in the long term as if one had done nothing at all?   It’s a question only the individual concerned can answer and it’s not always easy to be honest about it.  Facing hard truth`s about ourself is never easy or fun.
Cheers,
Buri
 

From Laurie Niles
Posted on October 7, 2009 at 4:49 PM

Sometimes it's hard to tell if the new direction you have chosen involves growing toward the sun, or growing toward a cheap flourescent light bulb that ultimately won't provide real nourishment. And when one finds that one is growing toward the light bulb, cutting off that branch can be painful. The "pruning," if you will. ;) But better to grow toward the sunshine.


From Stephen Brivati
Posted on October 7, 2009 at 8:13 PM

 Greetings,

Laurie, one thingI notice makes a big difference. Sometimes we are intellectually attracted to something rather than the heart.  In the former case the new challenge or skill learning,  job or whatever will rarely become a life long journey.

Cheers,

Buri


From Bart Meijer
Posted on October 8, 2009 at 6:42 PM

Buri,

This mirror polishing and prune grinding reminds me of Hui Neng! Did you mean it to?

Bart


From Stephen Brivati
Posted on October 8, 2009 at 8:00 PM

 Greetings,

I didn`t know the exact source but it is a fairly common quote in Aikido phhilosophy derived from Bhuddist texts.  I was planning on writing a blog about how it relates to the kind of practice we do but I got side racked. 

Cheers,

Buri


From Stephen Brivati
Posted on October 9, 2009 at 5:45 AM

Greetings,

Bart, here is an essay I like written around that quote:

http://www.aikiweb.com/training/hooker5.html

Cheers,

Buri


From Bart Meijer
Posted on October 9, 2009 at 2:56 PM

Thank you, Buri!

It seems my initial association was not the intended one.

Your link points to a beautiful piece -- so beautiful that I'm tempted to call it a song.

Bart


From Yixi Zhang
Posted on October 11, 2009 at 1:27 AM

Buri, you addressed something I've been trying to figure out for some time myself.  I always look for new challenges, be it academic learning and career, artistic or spiritual pursuits. I used to think this disposition is a source of pride and look back I do see a lot of merits in this approach. But lately I can't help thinking if the mind can't stop looking for more new challenges, might it not be some sort of addiction, hunger of the ego, or immaturity of the self? Do I have a better alternative? I can't quite put my finger on it yet. Anyway, just want to say thanks for the thoughtful and insightful blog!

Yixi


From Stephen Brivati
Posted on October 11, 2009 at 5:41 AM

 Greetings,

thanks Yixi.  As always,  during the process of writing more questions get raised than I could have imagined at the beginning.  What you mention is an intriguing problem.  I don`t know the answer either but I think there are two important facets:   1)  if -no- learning is taking place then that is the most dangerous state to be in .  Perhaps one has to be careful though because unlearning or letting go of unnecssary learning is also crucial!    2)  Maybe it depends on the journey one has undertaken.   As far as the violin is cocnerned I doubt if I am going to continue to strive with the same intensity over the next twenty years because I no longer have the major goals.  Just a quiet,  though provoking friend.  Biking challenged me both physically and mentally but it isn`t something I need to do more than maintain now.  On te other other hand,  my Aikido practice has become very interesting to me and smells like it might be a long and arduous journey. If thta is the case there won`t be room for much else for many years to come.

Cheers,

Buri


From Yixi Zhang
Posted on October 12, 2009 at 4:34 AM

Buri, you and your linked article have answered my question beautifully!  It's now so crystal clear to me that what I used to do, especially the past a few years since starting law school, was merely grinding the stones and I was so full of myself to the point of being a total fool. Now I think I begin to polish the mirror.  

It's hard sometimes to realize that certain learning in the valley, as it may for some time look like no-learning.  For one thing, it's hard to see what one is learning when the environment or the mode of learning is not one's own choice or is beyond one's framework so one is entirely in an unfamiliar territory, so unfamiliar that one has no reference point to check. Other people's views can only confuse the matter further.

When the mirror is polished and the mind is quiet, the journey reveals itself. I often say that goals are secondary in that they are means to end. I would now go further to suggest that even journey is a means to end. To me, the end is this moment: the clarity, the enlightenment, the connection is making to other beings, or at least the inspiration is happening. 

I would like to say wherever you go please don't leave v.com and what you have given has been priceless, etc. Yet those expressions pale in comparison to the fact that the connection you are making with us is really timeless as it will always be present when needed.  So wherever a journey takes you to, be it violin or aikido, I'm sure you are positively connecting with the consciousness like you've seen here at v.com.  On this thought, I'm thankful beyond words, and happy.

Yixi  

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