Zen in the Martial Arts

Writing Prompt Nov. 22, 2016 
The legendary Zen master Takuan Sōhō said: 
“The mind must always be in the state of ‘flowing,’ for when it stops anywhere that means the flow is interrupted and it is this interruption that is injurious to the well-being of the mind. In the case of the swordsman, it means death. 
When the swordsman stands against his opponent, he is not to think of the opponent, nor of himself, nor of his enemy’s sword movements. He just stands there with his sword, which, forgetful of all technique, is ready only to follow the dictates of the subconscious. The man has effaced himself as the wielder of the sword. When he strikes, it is not the man but the sword in the hand of the man’s subconscious that strikes.”

or in a single line: 
"When you seek it, you cannot find it" 
after reading Joe Hyams’ Zen in the Martial Arts

Escaping Bandits

Let's say you are running from bandits
and you know, you know to run zigzag and random
but your random isn't random enough
and the shots are stinging closer.
The plan you had to make the juniper to the right
is forestalled by a hail of bullets.
What will you do?

That's when you tumble into the river,
down the clay bank with a splash.
You knew the river was there, you knew.
You'd planned on it, you'd planned to go into the chaparral,
then across the river and into the brush on the other side
and up the draw into the hills.
But now you have tumbled into the river
and it is carrying you faster than you could swim
but not across—down and under and around,
big boulders lurching toward you.
The bandits race along the bank.
Sometimes they see a head bob, bob up
and suck under and swirl away.
Their guns peck peck across the top of the water.

And now what?
That river is taking you fast and far and you have to let it
but you do your doggy paddle and you plan, you plan again
for the soft yellow of a beach you know lies ahead
and the brush that reaches to its edge.

Huh! bandits know how people think.
They are waiting at that curve of sand, their guns aimed.
The perfect place to land, they think, to crawl into the shallows
and we will get him then.
But that's not what the river has in mind.
It ducks you under, crashes you against a boulder,
and, dizzy, you have to let yourself go into the current

right on past that bank where the mass of horses wait.
You do not even know you are going past
because you are floundering deep under the green water,
fighting for breath, and when you come up—
ah, you are far beyond that beach
into territory you do not know, places you cannot plan,
a route that leads you away from bandits, away from the life you knew.
You are free to go upon your way.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Very nice, Sarah. I will add my understanding of your lesson to my understanding of Takuan's. Jeffrey