“Link yourself to the Universe”. Morihei Ueshiba would often use this phrase, especially when he talked about the universal Ki. We can see this when we look at the third ken suburi. This awareness and reconnection with nature and the universe brings important benefits to us as individuals that also extend to society as a whole.
This view is also shared by some modern Zen masters. Buddhism’s non-dualistic view means we are not separated from things but inter-connected with everything.
Thich Nhat Hanh a Vietnamese Zen master speaks of how we can get closer to mother earth through the practice of mindfulness (being in the present moment), allowing us to slow down and so appreciate the gifts that the earth and skies have for us. Research is identifying more and more that a disconnection with nature can lead to depression and a feeling of alienation.
These thoughts came to me the other night when I was looking at the night sky the moon and stars bright in the cold air. I often do this now as I did as a child but for a few years I had forgotten how to enjoy the free show.
How many of us take the time to look and really see a flower, the moon, a running stream, a beautiful bird in the garden. Although technology and the aids to modern life are great they can put a barrier between us and nature.
Looking at old pictures of Budo, many practice sessions are outside no matter what the weather or in dojos that are exposed to the elements. Ancient Chinese and Japanese beliefs in Chi/Ki state that running water and trees would improve the flow of universal energy through us. Morihei Ueshiba often practiced outside as did his students.
I often practice my weapons bokken and jo in the garden. This is important to me and being out in the sun, rain, wind, snow, helps me feel a connection with nature. It also changes the dynamics of training, gripping the jo is more difficult in a cold rain but it gives a sense of the real.
We often perceive ourselves as individuals separate from this world but in reality we have evolved from it, we’re made from it, we’re part of it and everything is interdependent and linked together. The iron in our blood comes from the centre of exploded ancient stars, our bones and flesh are made of the elements that make up the worlds, the water we drink was also drunk by the dinosaurs.
We are connected to the universe and our practice can reflect this. So when you have a chance take your bokken and jo out on a clear night and practice under the moonlight and feel that connection even though the neighbours may think you’re odd you will be following a tradition many of the old Bushi and Zen masters engaged in.