Moments of Newfound Flight – Yoshin Dave Klaus
I have always loved martial arts movies. Partly it was the action and the moves and the excitement, but on a deeper level I found myself admiring the moral clarity that most of the heroes in these movies seemed to possess.
In movies like “The Seven Samurai,” the samurai always stood up for the “little guy” and pushed back against illegitimate authority. Yet, in my own life, I never felt any such certainty, indeed, I often felt lost and adrift.
Our family did not practice any religion, except for a vague sort of Christianity, and I found myself curious and even envious of my friends who had faith in a tradition. It seemed like they had a grounding or a foundation in something deep and real, and I longed for that kind of solidity.
In college, I took an Old Testament class because I heard the professor was good, and enjoyed it so much I became a religion major, eventually focusing on the study of Buddhism and medical ethics.
I also dived into martial arts, training in a variety of styles until I found my “lifetime dojo” here in California, where I eventually was promoted to second degree black belt and became an instructor.
Our system, Danzan Ryu Jujitsu, is descended from Japanese classical styles, yet much like Hollow Bones, it is a post-modern system which is informed by a wide range of disciplines. As my study of jujitsu progressed, my fascination with Japanese culture deepened as well, and I started to dig into zen. It turned out to be the perfect path for my busy mind!
I have always been a thinker, and indeed an over-thinker. From childhood, I was a very good student and yet insecure in my own body, and always striving to prove myself, which of course means I was always finding myself wanting in many ways.
My ego-mind and I have developed strong analytical skills, having trained for 30 years as a public defender attorney to use my mind as a tool to cut through arguments and resistance as well as ignorance and cruelty. I am able to devour texts and harvest and polish words. I write and speak to persuade and advocate. I raise my voice on behalf of the oppressed and demonized. I have represented clients accused of the range of crimes from drug possession to mass murder.
As a result, my public defender kung fu is very strong these days. I know how to fight in the courtroom, and I can cross-examine a witness with the best of them. I can bring my warrior energy online in service to my clients, and I am willing to make a cut when necessary.
But there is a cost.
My mind is restless, sometimes literally waking me up in the middle of the night with worrying. When there is a problem in my life, I tend to treat it like a hostile witness, mercilessly dissecting and analyzing, and sometimes falling into rumination, like a cow endlessly chewing her cud.
When my mind goes in this direction, trouble is at the door, bringing worry and fear and intense contraction: a thought-theory that the world is dangerous and separate and that scarcity is the rule. These contractions are as uncomfortable as they are convincing, and often turn into what Junpo calls “a full cranial-rectal inversion”. Ha!
I have now been through enough of these contractions of my heart and soul to know now that this is just the way it works in my life and my process. And maybe that’s just the way it works for all of us sentient thinking creatures. The Buddha certainly thought so.
For long periods, I will breathe easy and joyfully, reveling in the glory and wonder of being alive. Then the wind will shift, and I will burn in the fire of intense circumstance, consumed by reaction, story, and shadow beliefs.
Only to re-emerge again into new understanding, new growth, and a new state of being.
I am like the caterpillar who enshrouds itself in a dark, suffocating and yet oddly comforting cocoon in order to undergo a dramatic and disorienting transformation.
Born anew, I am then blessed to enjoy moments of newfound flight, effortless unfoldings of peace and calm in the summer breeze, all the while knowing that though death will certainly arrive someday, in the meantime there will be time for more cocoons, more fires, more evolution, and more flying.
The cool thing is that thanks to my practice of meditative awareness, clear intention, and acting mindfully, compassionately, and skillfully, my process is getting faster.
Getting stuck in a big ditch of depression used to be more common for me, but with a much practice and effort, I now catch things quicker, and often choose to respond rather than react.
There is an opportunity for this choice in every moment, in every breath. Truly, when flying in the now, the sky is the limit.
I am so grateful for this practice, and for this Dharma, and for this Sangha, and for our dear Abbot Jun Po. After all the years of restless searching and seeking and striving, I have found a home, refuge, a place where I can sit and be still and experience the true possibilities of being alive and awake and overflowing with joy and love and compassion.
Most importantly though, I have found you all: this awakening community, spread across the earth, reflecting back to me my own true meaning, shining so brightly with this golden light that I have faith that even when I fall asleep, as I do, the light of compassion and awareness and interconnection that you all emit will wake me up once again, so that I may once again CHOOSE to take my seat.
I am forever in!