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Excerpts from Hagakure, Chapter 1

I started reading "Hagakure," which was written by the samurai Yamamoto Tsunetomo from 1709 to 1716. I don't agree with everything in the book - some of the things Yamamoto-sama says sound crazy to my modern sensibilities, but there's some powerful quotes in here about bushido. Here's some I liked, with some thoughts of my own -

We all want to live. And in large part we make our logic according to what we like. But not having attained our aim and continuing to live is cowardice. This is a thin dangerous line. To die without gaming one's aim is a dog's death and fanaticism. But there is no shame in this. This is the substance of the Way of the Samurai. If by setting one's heart right every morning and evening, one is able to live as though his body were already dead, he pains freedom in the Way. His whole life will be without blame, and he will succeed in his calling.

The first book of philosophy on bushido I read was the Budoshoshinshu. It had a significant impact on my thinking. One of the largest tenets of bushido is keeping awareness of your death in mind when you live. I try to do this, because it gives you a sense of urgency and importance.

A lot of times the principle is misunderstood - the principle is actually make preparations as if you'll live forever, but live this day that you'd be proud if it was your last. Bushido is not about being reckless. It's about keeping awareness of the end with you, and in doing so, living much more.

It's almost paradoxical - the man who is aware of his death, who relinquishes his claim on life, he lives much more fully. The man who is ignorant of his death does not live as much. Death is not something to be afraid of - it's something to be aware of. Being aware of it makes you more alive, and more effective, and more purposeful.

"Maybe you should take a breath, Mom"

On Kitty Litter Zen Garden

I am a mom who really needs to practice mindfulness and other ways of releasing stress. I have a son with special needs and I find that the day to day challenges of dealing with him can sometimes send me right over the edge to the point that I'm shouting and angry. Yesterday while I was shouting in the car he calmly said from the back seat "Maybe you should take a breath, Mom." And he was right. Of course, it's the same advice I give him when he's about to have a meltdown.

And so instead of having a complete meltdown (or sometimes shortly after having a complete meltdown) I try to go to my happy place or at least my slightly calmer place. To get there I do need to breath. I also meditate. When I don't meditate it's almost like someone who needs regular medication who forgets to take it. The results are immediate and not pretty. Other options that I've been exploring recently include practicing about 5 minutes of gentle yoga in the morning. I can start it while I'm still in bed which is a wonderful way to wake up. A third way of practicing mindfulness is to practice loving kindness. Stating 4 simple wishes for myself and then turning them outward to my son, my husband and others in my immediate world is a calming and centering practice. "May I be happy. May I be safe. May I be healthy. May I be loved." "May you be happy. May you be safe. May you be healthy. May you be loved."

Taking care of my own needs is an ongoing practice.So much of what we do as "Mom" is taking care of others. But if we don't first take care of ourselves we will be left with little else to offer others.

What ways do you take care of yourself, either as a mom or simply as someone who cares for others?

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