In today's post we look for the intersection of the dojo and nature with respect to...well...respect. Sensei Roemke has a short story of learning how to become "invisible" in nature through the practice of respect.
He also has a short video at the end where he teaches ways to practice respect in the dojo.
In a previous post, Sensei Roemke went tracking with a local instructor who introduced him to the art of bird language.
That tracker was a guy named Jon Young.
There's a little more to that story that Sensei wanted to share with you. It's about how approaching life from a place of respect not only will make you "invisible," but it will also get you far in life.
I'll let Sensei tell you the rest of the story...
Did you know that showing respect can make you invisible? Here's how.
I was on a tracking hike with Jon Young. The first thing we did when we went out on the landscape was to pull in our concentric rings of disturbance by quieting externally and internally. Being a lifelong student is one of my favorite mindsets. It's amazing how much you can learn in just a short time if your cup is empty enough to be open to learn new things by just listening and observing without talking.
On this day with Jon, we were going down the trail when we came to a narrow point where two bushes were on opposite sides of the trail, close to each other. There were some small birds that were flying from one bush to the other, each flying across one at a time.
Jon raised his hand to signal us to stop. He said quietly, "We can't go through that threshold there. Those are some of the most aware birds on the landscape. If we just go blasting through there, they will send out alarms. They'll blow our cover and we won't be part of the baseline of everything here in the forest."
I had never heard of this before. I was intrigued.
We waited. While we were waiting, I started counting birds. I counted twenty-eight birds that crossed between the bushes.
Then Jon asked, "Are there any birds left in the bush?"
"I have no idea," I replied.
He jokingly said, "Use the force Luke."
I laughed and tuned-in to my senses. "I think there's one left," I said.
"You are right. There's one left, and it's not going to let us pass. It doesn't know where we are yet. So, just bend down and start to pretend to pick at foliage and pretend to eat it. It will think we are feeding," said Jon.
So we did just that. We bent over and pretended to pick plants and bring them to our mouth. We took our intent off of looking at the bird and were just busy with our own pretend foraging.
The bird still wouldn't move.
"Ok, it's not going to let us go by. We're going to go around in a different direction," he said.
The bird still didn't make any noises. We casually turned 90 degrees to our right and went off trail and went in another direction.
Then Jon stopped and said, "Just act like you are foraging for food again." So, we resumed this practice.
Before long, a small covey of California quail appeared. Quail are usually very skittish. When they see people they usually run or fly away while making a lot of alarm calls. When these quail came out, one of them flew up to a nearby tree about six feet off the ground. It looked over toward the other bush where the previous little bird was, and then it looked back at us. The quail gave no alarm. The rest of the quail walked by us while continuing to eat. Soon they were right next to us, less than two feet away!
They didn't seem to notice us.
And then a rabbit hopped out and looked at us, then looked at the quail. Then it began to eat from a nearby bush. It was only two to three feet away.
I thought...what is going on?! This is awesome!
That was the first time that I had this lesson of respecting nature.
The reason I was able to respect nature was because of my martial arts training. In my training, I have been told so many times- when you enter the dojo, put your hands by your side and give a respectful bow to honor the space. It's the same feeling for entering nature.
To show respect to nature means that you don't go blasting into a landscape unaware and create disturbances to all the animals, including people. Magical things will unfold if you are coming from a place of respect.
When you are respectful in the dojo, it gets noticed. For example, when one of the teachers is leading a lesson, I will usually take a knee so the people behind me can see. Other people in the room will often notice and will also take a knee. It shows that my intent is to pay attention. I am quieting myself.
Respect will get you a long way in life. When you learn how to give a good handshake and look people in the eye, that opens doors because people feel validated. When this happens, people are much more willing to share more with you, especially teachers.
Below is a short video by Sensei where he teaches how to practice respect in the dojo.