Buddhism, Martial arts, Philiosophy, Religion

The Ottawa County Winter 2018 Middle Way Meditation Retreat Part 2: Here There be Monsters


I am very aware of my own nature and predisposition when it comes to confrontation.  I will always avoid a fight.  I’m fond of the saying: “He who fights and runs away, lives to run away another day.”  That comes from television or cinema in the distant past or maybe future. Regardless, I never enter into trouble without knowing that I can get out faster than I got into it.  I’ve made it to nearly forty before I finally got caught and not even for something that should have landed me in jail. At least not alone. I have to be backed into a corner or defending those I love before I’ll engage in confrontation.  I regularly pick up my hat, jacket, keys, and wallet and high tale it for the door during an argument.  My friends, those that really are friends, have all seen me do it when Angel was on the war path.

Unfortunately,  I have been sadly unaware of my intentions and motivations when it comes to love and relationships.  This is a failing that has plagued me for almost twenty years and has been the primary factor in the failure of what is now three marriages and nearly a dozen relationships that never made it to the altar.  My tendency to pack and run from trouble has ended some.  Those were obviously toxic.  Some of the less obviously toxic relationships lingered on while I struggled to keep a lid on things. Never recognizing the hidden intentions and pervasive conditioning that drove my self destructive behavior and would ultimately end the relationship.  However, I was always ready to identify those things in others.  It was very arrogant and hypocritical in hindsight but gives me hope that since I can easily see these things in others that I’ll be able to see them within myself now that I choose to look and take care of them.

We all carry these subconscious intentions and pervasive conditioning.  The behavior associated with them becomes habitual to the point that we are often completely blind to the fact that we are acting in a purely destructive manner towards ourselves and those we love.  My time at the retreat gave me ample opportunity to examine my motivations through the new moral lens I was fashioning.  The view I found of myself and in hindsight of Angel was frightening and very sad to behold.  This is why I have named the individuals acting on these intentions and conditioned reactions “Monsters.”  I can think of no better way to describe something that walks, talks, and acts for all the world to see like a human but whose actions are entirely bestial and driven by passion and anger.

Below you will find my account of the care and feeding of my monster and the pain and suffering it was partially responsible for.  While I’ll refer to it as “The Monster” it is in reality just me.  The selfish, lying, deceitful, lustful, passion and fear driven me.  The other half of the equation is Angel’s Monster.  I cannot speak to its origins or how it came to find mine and fall in “lust” but I can say that it was indeed every bit as real and active in our destruction as I was myself and has it’s own grotesque and sad history that may be a tale for another time.  Regardless, my actions and those of my dastardly alter ego are  the ground upon which I stand today.  I shall reap what I have sown but then again, so shall we all in the end.

The Wizards Third Rule: Passion rules reason.         -Blood of the Fold, Terry Goodkind

The Wizard’s Sixth Rule: the only sovereign you can allow to rule you is reason. The first law of reason is this: what exists, exists, what is, is and from this irreducible bedrock principle, all knowledge is built. It is the foundation from which life is embraced.”                                                         -Faith of the Fallen, Terry Goodkind


We always acknowledged to each other that we shared all of the same vices.  We loved to overindulge in good booze, good food, good drugs, and the most intense sexual extremes imaginable. There are many a broken bed and thrashed mattress to testify. It stands to reason that I knew that Angel was lying as surely as she knew that I was.  We are really that much alike.  The mirror that I was for her and she for me is still frightening to stare into for very long.  The intentions and motivations I see in her actions are echoed in my own.  They don’t repeat themselves exactly, but they do tend to rhyme and have a similar chord progression.  Perhaps that’s why it has been so easy to run? Away from the mirror but able to hel and grow. Her departure with such finality and precision is truly a work of art. Something I can admire for its strategic grace and finality. It was a coup de grace worthy of the master I’ve always known lived inside her intentional or not.

I remember when the monsters first made their appearance on the main stage of The Temple. We had each been hiding them. Each been nurturing and helping them grow. Secrets are the womb and we both kept them growing within us. I kept a scared broken beautiful songbird who couldn’t admit to loving me. Angel had a deceitful lover who could bring water to the masses but spent his time watering other flower beds. We each held them in in confidence for our own motivations. I kept my little birdie because I’d promised to be of aid when her cage started to close on her but also so that she could see the amazing life I was building that she could have been part of. It was hurtful and an apology has been given. Angel’s motivations are her own but I never believed her simple and matter of fact explanations. She was too confident and stern in their delivery, almost like making a cut. The statements always had too much intention associated with them. We each tendered the support we had promised reaping whatever perceived benefits we could and when the truth came round to show us our lies we bid each of these old friends that were more than friends adieu. We then calmly took what remained for ammunition to be held forever in reserve.

We exposed a tiny bit of our souls but not too much for fear of exposing the rest that was hidden. Neither of us made the choice to give our partner the gift of the shidachi and allow the other an opportunity to gain practice in forgiveness through an act of faithful, truthful vulnerability. I kept another woman close who’d fallen in love with me and kept constant watch, waiting to take action for good or ill. Angel kept a handful of lovers flames and couples. Two who had involved her in love triangles and other rendezvous which she later expressed a great deal of shame about. I could never see a reason for shame beyond the lie. There were men. A disgraced choir leader among them who talked like a lover and whom I’d been seated with and invited to enjoy drinks. The fellow told me what a lucky guy I was. The fact that she would parade me around without telling me what was happening is what hurt most. She also kept a woman who in particular was a “good friend” that got to hear about all of our triumphs and tragedies, successes and struggles. Somebody that could be confided in and spoken to sweetly like a sister or sister-wife because that’s how ladies talk to each other when they love or are in love. Somebody who would kindly send her salutations to me via my Angel’s own lips as if to inform me of her claim to them. They were held but my monster was .

I can’t say why the lie was so obvious but it never had even the slightest ring of truth as it echoed in my head and heart every day from then on. The monster who lived in me shouting to amplify the blatantly obvious falsehoods and contradictions and helping to magnify the dull pain that it created. A pain that turned to anger and feaf that displaced compassion and closed my heart and mind. Making it impossible to listen or to trust. There would be no more trust for Angel after that and it would be a constant point of contention. She wanted the trust but knew deep in her heart that it wasn’t correct and just that she should have it or want it. No more so than the trust I wanted but never received. I could have been more aware of our suffering. Something I needed to learn to do.

I wasn’t aware of the damage being done. I only knew that I sensed something but could never look at it directly. It was like a shadow that I only ever caught a glimpse of. I was in a state of denial. I could have and should have given and demanded the truth and the consequences it would bring. I could have walked away before things got so far out of hand that casualties would become inevitable. I can say today that the half seen shadow was the monster lurking behind those brilliant wings sent from heaven to comfort and sooth. The beast that cast the shadow was a creation born of lies and delusions that we told each other and to ourselves. It wasn’t something I wanted to believe existed and it wasn’t something she wanted me to see. The shame of its previous rampages leaving a trail of broken hearts minds and bodies. A permanent legacy of shame that would poison our relationship as surely as cyanide. My fear and anxiety wouldn’t let me call either demon for what they were and that lack of initiative painted the same target on me that my Angel’s first husband wore and does to this day. Telling Angel that something had changed only served to provoke the creature which would call out to its twin and together they would dash into the maelstrom of anger we’d both created in a headlong rush to crucify each of us. It should have ended then, we could have taken a mindful breath but we had just adopted our baby Porter boy and we could easily delude ourselves by turning from the withering vine of our love and bask in the joy that came wrapped in brindle fur and floppy ears and the unconditional love that we both longed for.

Eventually, way moved on to way and dawn went down to day. We found ourselves far from the grey eastern ocean living at the bottom of a far more ancient one that had yielded to grass and wind millennia ago. The dirty little city we had hastily chosen as our landing pad didn’t hold any joy or peace for us and the ancient ocean had long since given up its life to the grass that stretched from horizon to horizon. We were both creatures of the sea and started to whither like the grass in the blazing August sun. The plains stretching as far as the eye could see the grass a waving blanket beneath a azure bowl upturned to keep the clouds from racing off into the void. The sky was the biggest feature here going on forever as if to emphasis the fact that no matter where we went or how fast we went, we wouldn’t be going anywhere fast. The towns people were little more than slaves to their vocation and their possessions and could barely see beyond their next paycheck. Each of them a ravenous creature with a hole just like mine in their soul. Eager to grasp and devour anything or anyone that they could get their hands on. We hated it. I hated it, recognizing the kinship I had with these devouring creatures. Angel saw it as well and her eyes and heart continued to harden and grow cold.

Our lies still echoed in my head and with the lies came suspicion, doubt, anger, and fear. All products of the little beast living inside me. Growing bigger with each reiteration of the lies and each promise of fidelity that was broken before it left the lips. There could be no trust and without trust the beast hiding behind those heavenly wings grew as well, fed by her indignation and self hatred and my lies. The twin beasts calling to the growing abomination that lived within the other. The thing filling a void with anger, fear, anxiety, and suspicion. Looking for more. Hungry and insatiable.

We were being less loving day by day but we filled our time with work and practices. Rushing about creating new work to busy the mind and hands. Art and music, steel and strings, food and alcohol, sex and drugs. Another little fur baby and my own babies now came to fill our home with laughter and joy. I could almost forget the lies when I held my little ones close. When I closed my eyes and didn’t look at Angel. There could never have been any trust from either of us. Not in the sea of grass not with her refusal to give me the truth despite dozens upon dozens of opportunities. The time for truth had passed. The secret had to be kept for whatever reason. As for the loving watcher, I made no secret of her or her feelings. She even made me immortal in her own way and I reveled in the suffering it caused my Angel. Her watching had paid off and saved my children from loosing their father. It wouldn’t be the last time the watcher stepped in to save the day. True loyalty knows no bounds when love is true. Even if it’s unrequited and left in the cold, it rises to defend its object when hate and anger threaten to eclipse the sun.

From a tiny dream of flashing steel was born the chance to build greatness in a place where only grass and lust would grow. A cake could be baked but not without a proper kitchen and the kitchen had to be saved along with the Temple where the group following the way cut their way through egos an preconceived ideas that their teacher clung to and deluded himself for. We found a holy place to sacrifice our love to the gods of fear, lust, anger, anxiety, jealously, pain, and desire to name only a few. I found a balm to numb the pain and anger, a dream so grand and in need of such devotion that I could forget the lie and throw myself headlong into a self destructive labor of love. Love that I hadn’t known I still had. Love I thought the lie had poisoned. Love that wasn’t love at all. Only an illusion spawned of the monster who had found a new home with its demonic counterpart. They could rampage around our holy place to their hearts content and drive Angel and I apart inch by inch with whispered jabs to the ego and pride. Porter boy left us not long after. Anger and a dogs desire to swallow just about anything was his ticket on the express. I wish I’d have joined him.

I convinced myself that it was all for Us. That we were doing the greatest good in a place that needed it most. That we could poor all of the love and light we had into creating this shrine for the community that didn’t deserve it but desperately needed it. We did everything we could. Sacrificed all we had and more. We left nothing for the return trip and nothing to sustain our fading love. We gave up home and livelihood to take a tiny apartment and promised wages that never came. Angel clung to her lie and I drifted further up the stairs into my work. Doing just as I always do, build something grand, even if it’s on the ashes of a dying fire. Build something so I can hide from the pain that sleeps in my bed.

Something grand was indeed what we made in that once holy Temple. Everything we touched bloomed like a rose or turned to gold. The halls sprang to life with light, music, and laughter. The kitchen churned out far more than just cakes and the old dying edifice awoke to a new and exciting life that pulsed within. A life sustained by our dwindling love and fading spirits. A life eager to feast on all we as left and remained thirsty for more. A life that fed the twin monsters that repeated the lies in my ears and eventually led me into the witch’s arms to eagerly drink up the vaporous potion she brewed and demean myself with her body and spirit. Use her and ignore her. She was something else to fill the abyss. The void where the lies didn’t echo so loudly any more. The flesh and potions filled more space than any food or drink. The danger and the satisfaction gained from exacting unknown vengeance. Vengeance that would be revealed only after my Angel had to endure the frustration and pain I had. Only after she asked over and over again a question she knew the answer to. I would do unto her as she had done unto me and this perpetuate the cycle of pain that we had both existed in before we ever knew each other.

The potion had an amazing effect on my productivity and I attacked problems and projects with unbridled furry and determination, throwing myself into each task, competing it and rushing headlong into the next. I found others with vision and spirit and with the help of the potion they also began to carve success out of those stone walls. Each one lost in their own desire and poisoned by the feted spirit of that ancient tomb. The work was correct but without compensation or

With the witch’s secret embrace and her constant supply of the potion I felt like a one man army. I pressed every bit of potential from every possible outlet I could find.  I motivated others to pursue their dreams and fed them potion to fuel their passions.  The Angel did her magic as well and together we pushed the limits of what anyone believed was possible for only three full time workers and a handful of volunteers. The created amazing spaces filled with art, music, and comradeship. Nobody knew how much actual effort and energy was being expended to make even a tiny bit of progress. Nobody ever would. We were ducks on a pond, gliding effortlessly across the surface. Even our benefactor could t see how hard our legs were pumping and kicking. We just seemed to make it all happen.

Eventually, as I knew she would the angel found the potion. The witch had left but the potion was still available. She hated the lie that hid it from her but after sampling the concoction she used it more eagerly than most. It was a different kind of spirit that didn’t agree with Angel. She never New the extent of the lie or it’s scope and lost her way quickly in the clouds. This was the beginning of the end for my Angel and I and signaled the height of our monsters dominance and power. We were not in control any more. Angel became powerless to control the influence of the potion and floods of memories and emotions washed us both far off the path of Doshikai. We were lost and adrift. My compassion and loving ear was gone and without them the truth that poured from my Angel did nothing but cut, bruise, and worry me. Eventually, my weakness in the face of such terrible truths turned her against me. I wasn’t a pillar of strength any more. I had become her whipping post and in exchange she became mine. Over and over we re-enacted her trauma and I foolishly let myself be cast in the role of the villain, the perpetrator of unspeakable horrors and tortures.

This wasn’t the end though. It was just the beginning of our destruction and rebirth.

It took so long to remember just what happened
I was so young and vestal then you know it hurt me
But I’m breathing so I guess I’m still alive
Even if signs seem to tell me otherwise

I’ve got my hands bound
And my head down,
And my eyes closed
My throat’s wide open

I do unto others what has been done to me
Do unto others what has been done to you

-Tool, Prison Sex

Martial arts

Metsuke in ZNKR Kyuhonme-Soete Zuki

Metsuke as it applies in Iaido is where the eyes focus during kata and the intention expressed in the gaze.   Per the scenario presented in the All Japan Kendo Federation English version of Zen Nippon Kendo Renmei Iai for the kata kyuhonme-soete zuki, “You are walking along, when a person suddenly appears from the left with the intention to attack you.”  The kata begins with three steps starting on the right foot.  The attacker is noticed at the initiation of the second step.  The eyes lead the head and start to turn as the hands take hold of the tsuka and the body begins to turn left towards the attacker.  The third step is only a half step used as a pivot to continue the turn.  The initial cut, a kesa cut from the right shoulder to left abdomen initiated during the turn and is completed when the left foot steps back.  The gaze that initiates the turn and precedes the cut must be strong enough to support the seme or pressure that is being applied on the attacker and focused directly on the imminent threat while still being wide enough to see the entire situation and not give away the intended target.

After the initial cut, the attacker is directly in front with the blade in their gut just above the left hip bone.  Metsuke is still directed forward at the attacker, focused in a wider way on the entire threat while still intense and pressing.   The right foot pivots slightly and steps back half a step into soetezuki no kame with the sword grasped with the left hand between the thumb and forefinger.  This is done with the hand held horizontally along the omote side at a point about midway up the blade.  The hand and sword are parallel to the ground.    Metsuke is still supporting seme which is forward despite the rearward movement.  The sword is then immediately thrust into the attacker’s abdomen as the left foot steps forward past the right.  The motion ends with the blade thrust into the attacker and parallel to the ground at the level of the navel.  Metsuke is still forward on the attacker who is standing with the blade deep in them.

Metsuke and the intention of the act remain with the attacker as the blade is withdrawn   The left hand does not move as the right hand withdrawals the blade first slightly rearward then by raising the right hand to chest height blade rotated over the fingers of the left hand with the point down and the edge facing down and to the right.  At this point Metsuke broadens in focus as it follows the body to the ground.  The gaze should be far away but present to support zanshin.  It remains thus through migi ni hiraite no chiburi, and noto.

Metsuke changes when taito Shisei is assumed.  The gaze is raised back to forward head level and does not change as the three withdrawing steps are taken.