No Beginning and No End

My biggest lesson after decades of learning and practicing aikido is how to adapt to a changing environment.

Attackers can come out of nowhere.

So can friends.

I met peace and harmony master Kazukai Tanahashi almost 30 years ago during a brushwork weekend he taught at Zen Mountain Monastery near Mt. Tremper, New York. Our paths crossed a decade later at a Tassahara retreat in a mountain valley in a remote part of the Ventana Wilderness, inland from the Big Sur coast. In the early 2000s my wife, Stephanie, and I attended his 70th birthday party in Oakland, California. Now 90, “Kaz” lives in Berkeley where he paints, studies and prepares for whatever comes his way.

Attackers can come out of nowhere.

So can friends.

Depending on how you view existence, life and death can be either or both.

Kaz is known world-wide for his peace activism. He works for a world without armies and plants trees in Brazil’s Amazon rain forest to help save the planet. Kaz also paints what the Japanese call “enso,” sacred circles of togetherness — one-breath-one-stroke creations that have no beginning and no end.

I imagine myself sitting one day at 90, wearing my aikido hakama  (Aikido founder O’Sensei many years ago personally promoted Kaz to black belt in Iwama, Japan) and painting ensos in the attic. As a 3rd degree aikido black belt and a 4th degree aikijujutsu black belt, for now I train alone. In the future I will do my aikido moves alone on the canvas, painting mindless expression of bountiful universal energy as I go.

“Get out of my way!” I’ll yell, waving my brush in the air like a sharp samurai sword. “Here comes the old man!”

Black and purple intrigue me.

Black and green, too.

“Look,” I’ll say to Stephanie. “Look what I did.”

I’ll paint many multi-colored ensos as I await the cosmos to come and get me.

Overtaken by nature’s luster one day last winter, I entered into the snow and created what I call “ensnow,” my own chilled interpretation of no beginning and no end.

Winter always shows up.

Winter always departs.

Winter has no beginning and no end.

I sound like a Zen madman, one of those wild hermits sitting on a rock in his cave drinking homemade mulberry wine and laughing at the shadows on the wall. I like how I sound. I like the sound of lunatic laughter.

This morning when snow fell for the first time this year in a significant amount, I shoveled the sidewalks and the steps. Then I saw our newly constructed empty Zen platform in our Zen garden looking at me.

The wood beamed.

I was happy, too.

So I took the broom I use to sweep leaves and twigs from the platform and held it like a brush. Kaz often uses oversized brushes to generate some of his one-breath-one-stroke paintings. After I painted my ensnow the squirrels applauded. They knew a nut when they saw one.

I then stood back and contemplated my work.

Beauty pulsed at the circle’s core like a beating newborn heart.

Peace forms the ensnow’s center.

Peace has no beginning and no end.

Peace one day will last forever.