A Busy and Well-Received Weekend at Kendo’s Retreat!

Valentine’s weekend saw the Kendo Nagasaki organisation present 3 days of events at The Retreat – a Healing day on Friday 13th February, a main Event day on Saturday 14th, and on Sunday 15th, a “special day out” event for the clients of Freedom Support, an organisation which supports those with physical, autism spectrum, and learning disabilities, and their carers.

Friday began with Kendo’s “Singing Bowl Healing”. This is a special experience, in which seven people lie down in The Retreat’s Seminar Room on mats placed around an arrangement of singing bowls. The lights are lowered and sounds of nature from The Retreat’s grounds are played, gradually fading to a very distant, relaxing background, and Kendo then plays an intuitively-guided sequence of singing bowls which he feels accommodate the spiritual needs of those present. In the quietness and comfort of The Retreat, the seemingly random sequence of singing bowls, both large and small, resonates with the inner self, and, it seems, with the universe itself, creating a deep, timeless, and mystical experience. After some time, Kendo withdraws, and the nature sounds return, to be eventually replaced with a calm, strong arrangement of Kendo’s Anthem to bring the participants back to full awareness.

Kendo has used singing bowls in connection with healing for many years, but this is the first time he has held the Singing Bowl Healing experience for multiple persons at The Retreat, and it was universally positively received. In keeping with Kendo’s Zen foundations, participants are first instructed on how to ensure that their conscious selves work with the process, so that their minds don’t hinder the depth and power of the experience; reports of extremely deep relaxation, feelings of great refreshment, a deeper, intuitive awareness of participants’ lives, and an easing of physical symptoms came back to us – precisely the kind of empowerment Kendo intends to be derived from the Singing Bowl Healing.

As Friday was also the 13th of the month, we performed the Distance Healing Ceremony at thirteen minutes past one, and this was followed by an Affirmation Stick Burning ceremony. Some people came solely to attend the Distance Healing Ceremony, adding their strength and benevolence to the out-flow of healing energies, and gaining a deep sense of peace from their spiritual contribution. Those who had taken part in the Singing Bowl Healing had been given a special ‘Affirmation Stick’ which, in addition to Kendo’s ‘hanko’ stamp, also carried an emblem of Yakushi Nyorai, the Medicine Buddha, who brings both healing and freedom from worry. Kendo conducted both ceremonies with his customary gravitas, care, and concern, retreating afterwards to continue meditating on the healing needs of those named in the ceremony, and the participants were able to relax and enjoy the gardens of The Retreat for a while.

Saturday was a full ‘Event’ day, and we were delighted to welcome many newcomers who hadn’t been to The Retreat before. The theme of the day’s seminar was stress. Stress is, of course, one of the worst consequences of our busy lives, and it gives rise to all sorts of worries about whether bad things will happen, whether good things won’t happen, whether we might fail in some task or other, and more, and such worries represent a particularly negative form of ‘attachment’, in this case, to an imagined outcome. Buddhism recommends that attachments are severed, and detaching ourselves from worried-about, un-happened, possible negative outcomes is a particularly important empowering technique for us in the West. The seminar introduced the fact that Kendo’s Empowerment Affirmation Meditation was to be a part of the day, which all participants would experience in The Retreat’s Meditation Suite.

The seminar went on to mention that the removal of dis-empowering mind-sets would inevitably result in empowerment, and that the Buddhist Shakyo was also a particularly empowering activity, because it focuses the mind into a meditative and devotional activity, disciplining the mind and bringing about integration of conscious and unconscious selves. This, too, was performed by all participants of the day, using Kendo’s sequence of Japanese kana affirmations appropriate to the empowerment theme. Shakyo had also been performed by those accompanying Friday’s Singing Bowl Healing participants, using the Buddhist Heart Sutra in Kanji, in keeping with the healing atmosphere of the day.

Saturday also included a tour of the grounds, pointing out all the spiritual places which are important to Kendo and describing some of the symbolic perspectives he considers when meditating at them. Later in the day, Kendo gave a singing bowl performance, which gave participants an opportunity to relax deeply and resonate with the harmonics of the universe.

There then followed an in-house presentation of how, right from its origins, the Japanese tea ceremony has been (and continues to be) inextricably linked with Zen Buddhism and the samurai and Japanese culture, illustrating the importance and precision and depth of each and every movement made in ‘The Way of Tea’. It should come as no surprise that Kendo has long performed the tea ceremony – ever since meeting Kenshiro Abbe, in fact – and this led to a fascinating surprise for the guests – we went into the Hidden Garden to watch Kendo bless his own new ‘Yushin’ tea room. A ‘Yushin’ tea room has benches and a table, and represents the most current evolution of this deeply traditional ceremony; the Japanese themselves have embraced this style of tea room, with only tourists wanting to sit on the floor to drink tea these days!

Kendo’s new tea room has been dedicated to Kenshiro Abbe sensei. It’s a most appropriate memorial to the Japanese master judoka and mystic, who was a man of deep insight and great precision, and whom ‘The Way of Tea’, in all its intricacy and expertise, represents most aptly.

Kendo performed a Shinto-based ceremony involving the striking of a singing bowl and a silent invocation to invite the ‘kami’ deities of nature from the Hidden Garden (which surrounds the tea room) to bless it and all those who come there, and the casting of salt to purify the structure and space in which it exists. No-one knows when – or even if – Kendo will invite anyone to his tea house to join him in ‘The Way of Tea’, but the chance to participate in such a precise, profound, and spiritual ceremony – led by Kendo himself – is certainly a most beguiling possibility!

Sunday began with a warm welcome to everyone associated with Freedom Support, which included eleven persons with physical, autism spectrum, and learning disabilities, and their carers, which brought the total attending to over 20. The day began by going straight into an in-house action movie of the superstar they’d all come to see – Kendo, of course! On the big screen and through the surround sound system in the Seminar Room, it was a completely involving and engrossing experience which everyone enjoyed. Then it was time to see the gardens, and because of all the interesting and unique places they contain, they certainly seemed to fascinate. The garden tour went straight into a stick-burning ceremony (this time they were described as ‘wish-sticks’), and, once again, the ceremony certainly seemed to interest the guests. The day concluded with a very busy autograph and photograph session with Kendo. Everyone seemed to have had a great day, and this is something which we plan to do again very soon.

This is the first time that Kendo has hosted 3 separate events over 3 consecutive days at The Retreat, and we are very pleased at how well-received all the activities were. It was a great pleasure meeting new people – in many cases, the partners of those who’d been before – and we certainly hope to see them all again at a future Event. Kendo will, of course, keep on finding novel ways in which to inspire and empower those who come to his Retreat, and he looks forward to welcoming ever more people here to experience his wisdom and charisma; it’s definitely “Onwards!” for The Kendo Nagasaki Foundation!

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