Posted by: B Gourley | February 18, 2011

10,000 Changes

There is an admonition that goes, “10,000 changes, yet unsurprised” (banpen fugyo in Japanese). This is hard wisdom to internalize. “Unsurprised” may not be a great translation because I don’t think that it is so much about knowing what will happen as one’s minds response to unexpected events.

I was meditating outside on my back porch recently and was able to observe how my mind responded to the sudden barking of a neighborhood dog. It’s quite interesting that a train whistle can blow in the far distance and pass through completely unacknowledged by my mind, but a neighbor dog’s bark caused an instant of stoppage. Of course, this may be idiosyncratic to me; others might experience the opposite reaction, or have their minds stop at both, or at neither.

I recently picked up Takuan Souhou’s Unfettered Mind once again, having first read it many years ago.  [There are some books that surrender more and more to you each time you read them because you have an increased, or changed, capacity to comprehend.] The author begins by explaining a concept that is translated as “abiding”, which is the point at which the mind stops. Overcoming this proclivity for the mind to attach to events or to stop is essential in the martial arts.

I have increasingly come to see the great importance of the mind in budo. As I get older, my body gets slower and less agile, and, therefore, my only chance avoid becoming progressively less capable is to strive to develop an unperturbable mind. It seems that taking an approach to martial arts optimized to 20 year olds, when I’m now past 40, is a fool’s errand.

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