"The Arrow is Already In The Target", by Anita Taylor
It’s the last morning of an intense week of training in Kyudo (Japanese archery) at Chozen-ji and I am in the dojo halfway through shooting a set of 6 arrows. Luckily, this morning there is time for free training before the Kyudo demonstration that will officially wrap up the week.
I reach for the next arrow from the arrow stand next to me and set the nock onto the bow string. Right hand reaches up and points to the sky as my head turns toward the target, “Mu”. Right hand comes down then slides up the string to just below the arrow nock. Slowly my arms raise the bow until the arrow is above my head. One third draw, Daisan, flows into the full draw, Kai, smoothly and effortlessly perfect this time. There is no strain or shaking as I settle into Kai. My eyes stay relaxed as they take in the full view. The gravel path, the target house and the mountain beyond. The cool morning air is silent and still.
The arrow releases from the string and “Thwack!” A true hit! I take the next arrow and again the draw feels impossibly perfect. It’s as if the bow no longer exists and the arrow is already in the target. “Thwack!” Another true hit. How did that happen?
I don’t know, but it feels so easy that I should be able to do it every time. Can I do it again? I pick up the last arrow in the stand and go through the steps of shooting, hoping that it’s still there. But this time it feels like a normal draw; not bad, but not perfect.
The arrow releases... it falls short and to the left. Aaaah... It’s gone!
I feel very fortunate to have been able to participate in the Intensive that was taught by Kushner Roshi this year.
Shooting in the Kyudo dojo was unlike any other experience I have ever had. It was both awe-inspiring and humbling. The simple beauty of the dojo creates a serene atmosphere that is conducive to a state of samadhi; and the view of the rock garden, target house, and mountains from the shooting area is like looking into a different dimension. It is a very spiritual place that transformed my understanding of what it is to do Kyudo.
This was my first time training at Chozen-ji and the deepest experience that I have had in Kyudo. I realize that depth was the product of a week of concentrated training, not only in Kyudo, but also in Zazen, Okyo, Chado, and Samu.
This unique experience was made possible by the great efforts and support of the wonderful people living and training at Chozen-ji. I offer my deepest gratitude to everyone there for making Shugyo a possibility. For creating space for those who want to dive in. Thank you!