This is a wee bit of a lecture I gave the students and visitors at the Seidokai weekend in Tombo Dojo. It started out as a simple “cottage rules” but sort of morphed into Musashi’s discussion of budo as carpentry. In other words I presented it as a lecture on budo and slipped the cottage rules in there at the same time.
Budo IS the cottage rules, at least my cottage rules.
In no particular order, or rather in the order they occured to me, I would like to talk to you today about some ideas on housekeeping and budo.
First, I would like you all to think about what you throw over the railing. This is our compost spot, so things that compost are what you want to throw. Salad, oatmeal, coffee grounds. What I often see, and pick up (rake out), are stove ash, popsicle sticks, egg shells and the occasional dish rag. I would like you to be mindful of your actions when dumping things over the rail. Wood, ash and egg shells will, in several years, degrade, but in the meantime we have to look at them every time we lean on the rail.
Don’t lean on the rails, they are older than you are. Think of them more as guidelines to the edge of the deck than as places to climb on and sit. Consider the deck as that rotten bridge we often talk about in the dojo when we speak of how we walk.
Be mindful of what you throw over the rail and where you throw it. Bright yellow banana peels might better end up under the trees where they are not so bright. Mindfulness is not a process of meditating on the world for days before acting, it is simply paying attention to what you are doing right now. To see and understand, Ken and Kan, sight and insight, to look at the ground below the railings and to understand what you are doing when you throw out your garbage. Some things simply disappear (coffee grounds) and some are visible for years (wood ash). Pay attention and think about the consequences of your actions, this doesn’t need to take a lot of time, with practice it happens as you act.
For those of you that cook, the stove has needle valves on the controls. That means that when you shut them off, they are off when the flame is gone, you do not need to turn off the gas at the tank and then grind the valves shut with all your might. Propane is your friend, it does not want to blow you up. Don’t fear it, respect it instead. Just like an opponent in a fight, fear is dangerous, respect is only prudent. Think about how a needle valve works, grinding it down to the sticking point is likely to cause that leak you so fear because you have damaged the valve. Kan, understand how things work. Be mindful, pay attention, be curious about how things work as you use them.
Do things in sequence, the wood-stove gasket needs to be re-glued into place. We must do this before we light the fire. I know you like lighting the fire and don’t know what to do with the gasket, but trust me, you can’t glue the gasket back into place while a fire is roaring in the stove. You cannot run before you learn to walk, you must learn the kihon before you do the really long and involved kata. Similarly, we must do a dump run while the dump is open. You learn your martial arts while the dojo is open and sensei is there. If sensei is not at the dojo on Sunday, you won’t learn from sensei by waiting until Sunday to go to the dojo. We now have garbage from two years scattered around the place, mostly underneath the recent garbage caused by the break-in. It will remain here until someone gets the dump run sequence right.
Thing don’t fix themselves. You must take the proper action with all you encounter. Like fighting, you can be too slow or too fast. Broken things should be fixed now, rather than later when they get complicated and take too much time for one weekend of repairs. This is too slow. Fix it when it is broken or call someone who can fix it. Pick up your phone. It’s my cabin so my responsibility? Do you think your dad will outlive you? I will soon be gone, if you want to keep using Tombo dojo, pick up your phone without resentment, learn how to do that now. Of course “it’s your job”. Whose else is it?
How can you be too fast when repairing something? By deciding that you can improve a thing that is still working. Many things around here might work better, I agree, but there are improvements that are not improvements. Some things are the way they are because they work slowly, thus not breaking something else up or down the line. Too many electrical appliances can turn on at once and trip a breaker in a strange place, now none of your convenient lifestyle gadgets work. Do you know where that breaker is? Did you pay attention when I told you where it is? Please be patient with creaky doors that stick. If you shave an inch off them today, they may have big gaping holes under them in two months. This place is logs, they move.
We share this place with other creatures, ants, mice, insects. It may be more efficient to leave food out on the counter, or more romantic to burn candles on the shelves and leave wax but the ants are encouraged to stay indoors and the mice eat the wax during the winter. A little care now, a little slower now means less damage later. I won’t always be there to put things away or to fix your punches and kicks. Slow down and don’t fix what isn’t broken.
Wasting daylight. I know some of you are here to catch up on your sleep and not to practice. This is fine, but don’t sleep the daylight away and then stay up until 4 in the morning. This is useless action, like going through a kata in front of an enemy. Leave that sort of thing to the movies. If you go home as tired as you got here, you should consider your sleep habits and the value of useless actions.
Know the future. This is kan again, as opposed to ken. We have a pee place in one of the rails that my mother insisted we leave there. Girls can use it by grabbing both sides and sticking their rear ends out. This is fine during the winter and the rainy months but please consider the future, see into the future. During the dry summer days the pee goes nowhere, it accumulates and sometimes I hear “what is that smell”. At one point the girls carried toilet paper to the pee place and dropped it on the ground by the deck. Yes toilet paper is like a leaf, it is cellulose, but it is also white, glowing white, with flecks of yellow. And like leaves it takes years above ground to rot away.
Leaving the dojo in a mess is likely to have future consequences, same as leaving the cottage in a mess. If you must carry food and drink upstairs into the dojo, think about what will happen if you don’t take it back downstairs again. Is that dirty plate you left there still there? No? Maybe the House Brownies took it away, or more likely sensei the next time he went to the cabin. Little supernatural helpers usually turn out to be Mom.
I am not your mom.
The Ha of Shu Ha Ri. Make mistakes by all means, but consider when they are OK to make. Making mistakes in the dojo is fine, on the battlefield not so much. We have a dojo so that by making mistakes we are less likely to make them where they can kill us. The cottage is the same, there are harmless mistakes and there are mistakes that cost a lot of money, or can even kill us. Did I mention the railings are older than you are?
You need a good foundation, otherwise you will not have your fancy house, it will fall down. You need to do kihon. The material around the foundations here is sand, it can blow away, and does, exposing the footings of the block wall of the crawlspace. Exposed footings means rotten foundations. Sloppy kihon means rotten foundations to your budo.
Work together. All hot dogs all the time is the result of not working together on the food we eat here at the cabin. You may need an all hot dog diet but your friends may not. Similarly, if you don’t work together in the dojo, if you have a selfish practice, your friends will suffer and so, ultimately will you. Be there for class, work on what you need to work on, and what your partner needs to work on as well. Complaints about working with beginners when you want to learn more advanced stuff, or later, working with beginners because you want to teach during class are both things that might annoy sensei. Work together instead.
Are you and your things scattered over the couch, two stuffed chairs and the kitchen table? Where are other people to sit? I often pick up half cans of pop and ask whose they are. Do you think I care whose they are? Like your mom, like your sensei, I am trying to get you to see them, to understand that you drank half of a pop and dropped it wherever you happend to be, and then probably opened another one. We all like kids, childlike behaviour is fun, even more so when the kids are not ours and they will be going somewhere else soon. Childlike behaviour in adults is best kept for when they are drunk, that is, for only a few hours during the weekend. That is what “drunk”is for.
Each to their skills. We have many different skills here in the cabin, carpentry is on display this weekend as the crew puts in a new door. This, like our budo classes, is a good chance to learn something new. Consider what they are doing in light of your budo practice and what I have said so far about sequence, for instance. Do things in the right sequence and do them correctly, there is a foundation to a door installation, did you see it? You can transfer your budo learnings to other arts, as Musashi discussed in his description of carpentry as hyoho. Consider the principles, don’t be afraid of the details.
Ask, don’t bumble around when doing something new, but be without doubt if you know your trade. Step aside for expertise but step up if you know how. Ken and kan.
Consider time. We don’t have a lot of it on this earth, if you delay, if you put off calling in the experts or asking how to do something, you will waste that time of delay and possibly even more. I forgot to pay for the new hot water pump, that two day delay until I asked Pam to do it for me, meant that the pump is arriving at home tomorrow, too late for me to install it, I’m going home today. It was only two days but it has cost me perhaps two weeks if I don’t make a special trip up here.
OK I hope someone will pick up a broom and clean not only the dojo floor but the rest of the place as well. Just because it needs it and not because “it’s your job”. To have assigned jobs is not the way of budo. To simply do the job or call in a specialist when the job needs doing is the way of budo.
Next week I’ll be in the hospital three times, a CT scan and then a bone scan. Once more the next week for bloodwork and a chat. Fun stuff, I hope they can figure out what’s happening in my broken neck. I hope they are looking at that. I hope someone is looking at that, my arm and back pain is starting to break through the meds and my brain is getting fuzzier. Also sometimes off balance. Don’t know if I can fit a cottage visit in there to install the pump, should have dealt with the payment when it came up and not put it off.
Housekeeping, like budo practice, is never finished.
June 2, 2019
Port Credit classes: June 10 and 17, 6-9pm Clarke Hall.
HNIR and Kageryu:
Guelph (Port Credit) Seminar – Kajiya Soke and Watkin Shihan on the weekend of June 28/29/30 (yes, Canada Day weekend) https://seidokai.ca/niten-seminar.html
Calgary Seminar – Watkin Shihan on the weekend of July 6/7 Stampede weekend!
August 10,11. Quebec City, Jodo seminar and grading with Eric Tribe, Ed Chart and Tsubaki sensei.
November 8-10 Annual CKF Fall International Jodo seminar and grading. (Kurogo sensei and TBA), Mississauga (Port Credit).