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Empting Your Cup" before entering the Dojo.

Here is a famous Zen story about that:
Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university
professor who came to inquire about Zen.
Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor's cup full, and then kept on pouring. The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. "It is overfull. No more will go in!"
"Like this cup," Nan-in said, "you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"

When learning and in study we remember to actively make room, so we can take in something new. Holding on to what we already know will be in our way of what we are yet to learn. As one approaches a Dojo, lesson, or a conversation, a moment of emptying our cup, will clear some new space, for new seeds to be sewn, allowing fresh understanding to take place.

A Note on Misogi Practice: Cleaning the Dojo
The cleanliness of the Dojo reflects the personal characteristics and dedication of its students, it is an important part of our Aikido Misogi (purification of mind and body) training and should be attended to with mindfulness and attention before and after class. Cleaning the dojo is part of our Aikido training and should not be taken for granted. Choose a specific task for the month and make it part of your mindfulness practice.

Misogi Cleaning of the Dojo
Put as much mindfulness into your cleaning of the dojo as you do into your practice, this is an exercise in presence, mindfulness, and appreciation. Simple acts of how you bow, and how you greet your teacher and your fellow students and how you clean the dojo, reflect your presence as a student of Aiki. It is a do, a way, of being in the world, in every moment. The smallest act done with mindful awareness and complete presence can have transformational effects on our life and the lives of all we touch. Practice well.

The skills of misogi are Aiki Misogi is the practice of uniting with the great nature of the universe. By practicing misogi we can elevate our spirits. By practicing self purification, inner peace and harmony, as a way of harmonizing heaven and earth, a way of producing harmony and a way of world peace. In other words, Aikido and misogi erase the mind that fights and creates a heart of harmony, inner peace, and love, a way of purifying, unifying, mind, body and spirit.

More on Misogi:
Misogi: Purification

Misogi usually referees to austere or ritual training practices used for spiritual and physical development. Misogi is a traditional practice to purify the body and spirit.

The most common image of misogi is standing meditation under an ice-cold waterfall. The other practices include breathing during movement such as the aikido turifune-no-gyo (rowing exercise, hand shaking, chanting, kiai, seated mediation using visualizations, and specific dietetic restriction, such as fasting. Eventually, with consistent and persistent training, the student practices misogi in more common everyday activities. Regular dojo activities and responsibilities, such as seating, cleaning, and training can serve the purpose of misogi, and purifying practice.
Throughout all these activities, there is a focus and emphasis on consciously controlling the breathing. Breathing is essential to life and to the purification of life. Breathing connects the physical and emotional states. Beginning students of Aikido will tend to hold their breath as a stress reaction when practicing, Eventually, students will naturally synchronize their breathing with their movement and their training partner's. Breathing creates the connection and joining of the two into one. This process is spiritual and purifying.

Common to the misogi practice is the ability to keep the mind clam and clear, as in mushin, while the body is undergoing severe, often repetitive, experiences. Taking a cold shower while keeping the mind calm is a common, very private, form of misogi. O'Sensei Morihei Ueshiba was often known to pure cold water over himself to start the day. The practice of misogi offers the mind to be disciplined and to overcome the body's reaction to discomfort.
O'Sensei believed that the practice of aikido itself was misogi since aikido purified and united all beings in nature and provided a bridge between heaven and earth. The kami gave O'Sensei aiki to protect and perfect humanity, Practitioners use misogi as a way to connect with the divine. Misogi is budo, martial arts constantly polishing the spirit of the warrior through rigorous daily practice.
Aikido is or can be misogi, a means of purification of body, mind, spirit. It is the honest, genuine intent and intensity of training that provide opportunity to minimize the learned ego identity interference, and let the unity of the body, mind, and spirit occur naturally.
From: Advanced Aikido/{Pong Thong Dan sensei)

When the tension of the body is collected at the hara, the body feels like an empty circle, whole and transparent. Movements are performed gracefully with clarity and power. Tanouye Tenshin Rotaishi

Guidelines for Refining Posture:
1. The ears should be in line with the shoulders, with the spine fully extended as if the top of the head were suspended from above and the spine were a string of pearls hanging freely or alternatively, as if the spine and the top of the head were a spear thrust into the ceiling. In most people the chin protrudes forward and disrupts the natural alignment of the spine and head.

2. The tension in the neck and upper body must sink into the hara. Generally this is achieved by turning the pelvis upward so that the trunk of the body rests squarely over the legs. When the upward and downward forces are balanced at the hara, a person can move freely in any direction.

In practicing Aikido as a WAY we ultimately move toward transcending form, transcending technique, transcending duality, we practice Aiki principles with the ultimate goal of learning to apply these principles to each moment of our daily lives.


Shinzen Dojo

Shinzen Dojo, is a special place indeed and made even more so by the energy people bring in doing their practice here. The word "Dojo" literally means - place of the way. At this dojo, as an Aikido dojo, a sacred space devoted to ones personal development in harmonizing, giving birth to, resonating with the creative consciousness, life energy of the universe, the essence of love.
The word and spirit of Shinzen is made up of two words: "Shin" - heart, soul, the clear mirror of beginner's mind; sincerity with no hidden agenda. This is "reitai ittai", body and spirit as one, the spirit of life or our original nature. "Shin" means "core" or "essence", it can also mean both "God" and "faith", or the essence... of love ... The word "zen" is virtue, it can also be known as the sword of judgment and courage, the ki of fire, which comes forth as compassion for the world. Zen in Sanskrit is a word for meditation, in Chinese, quiet contemplation, the Psalmist calls for a similar way ... Come to the quiet, Be still, and know that I am... So Shinzen the courage and sincerity to come to the stillness within and meet the light essence, the divine essence, the true essence, of who we are... surrendering into love. Meeting ourselves with compassion as we step out of our hiding places and move into the light, a resonance vibration with infinite possibilities.....
Words often fall short of the true meaning and yet with these words and choosing the name Shinzen for this dojo I have set an intention for those who come here, "fellow travelers", that we might meet ourselves in all our beauty, form and formlessness, and have the experience of the word made manifest in all its beauty....

All that being said, in truth the dojo is not really a place at all, it is not a building, it is not a place, it is where ever you are now, that is the place, the sacred space of the way, into which we attempt to bring a beginner's mind, and surrender into Love.

Come and share your practice with other travelers exploring the possibilities of Love.



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