Tag Archives: philosophy

Zen in Hunting: Part 2

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Zen in Hunting Part 2

Trying to explain Zen to people has been difficult, not just for me, but for all Zen teachers, even the Japanese Zen-masters themselves. Reason being, the meaning of Zen is not something you can just tell someone, but rather something that must experienced. In Western culture we expect things to be tangible and definable. But in Eastern culture some aren’t explained with words, but experiences.  If you ask a Zen-master to explain what Zen is, he’ll likely turn his back on you. Zen is a sacred art, and not something to be handed out to the unworthy. Its power is beyond meager words, even beyond the teacher’s range of understanding. It is something that is earned through hard work, humility, and sacrifice.

If you haven’t read the epic novel, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig, you should probably be deported. It’s an important and powerful Western perspective of Zen. It also predicts the downfall of Western civilization via our own greed and self-centered world perspective. As time passes, especially in recent decades, the Western business model increasingly dictates the West’s values. The fallacy of the Western business model is this:
If a thing or idea cannot be quantified, monetized, or assigned a tangible value, it must be dismissed. Why do you think society hates religion now more than ever before?

Like it or not, this bias is the driving force behind all decisions regarding Western business, values, morality, emotions, decisions, relationships, the stock market, the government, etc. Have you ever noticed that every elected official is a living pile of crap, and the “good guy” politician always loses and no one knows why? He loses because his truth and his goodness can’t be quantified. The dirt bag politician, on the other hand, wins because he tells so many lies, and lies are data which can be added up and quantified. So he wins by numbers. But I digress.

Pirsig was a great prognosticator. He understood that the fallacy of the Western business model would inevitably lead to our destruction. He foresaw it very clearly, but felt so helpless in preventing it that it drove him certifiably insane.

What proved Pirsig’s theory was simple: The word QUALITY was indefinable in Western Culture. Everyone he asked seemed to have some vague idea of what Quality was, but couldn’t really define it. They couldn’t define it because Quality can’t be defined. Quality can’t stand on its own. Quality is only useful for comparing two objects. For example, this toothbrush is better than that toothbrush, so this toothbrush has quality.

Quality is very similar to Zen insomuch as it’s something to be experienced, not explained. You know when you have a quality experience–like shooting a giant buck or watching your son being born–but trying to explain why it’s a quality experience is impossible without comparing it to something lesser. And since it can’t be defined, it must be discarded by Western culture. Now, more than ever, it’s easy to see what Pirsig predicted 40 years ago is coming true: quantity over quality in all things. Don’t believe me? Just look at Walmart!

Before we continue on I want to make it clear that I am not a Zen-master; not even close! In reality I’m still a traveler along the Great Path. I only happened upon Zen because of the meditative rituals that I fell into while hunting. At the same time, I believe that the purpose of life is to follow the one true path, and that is the path leading to enlightenment. If I have a degree of higher understanding of Zen, it’s only because I’ve traveled farther along the path. And if this is true, then I can help others.

Are you seeking Zen in your life, or are other forces (dogmas, hope, ignorance, etc.) guiding you? Can the ancient art of Zen really be used for hunting? Is God and Zen really the same thing? These are all questions that I ponder and study every day, and hope to answer in future posts.

As of now, we’ve only scratched the surface. For the final piece of the puzzle, see

Zen in Hunting: Part 3

Zen in Hunting: Part 1

Zen in Hunting: Part 1

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You must feel the Force around you. Here, between you…me…the tree…the rock…everywhere!  Yoda

Zen in Hunting Part 1

Where do you think the idea for ‘the force’ came from? When you first saw Star Wars you probably knew it was fiction, but did you also feel some familiarity with the concept of there being a ‘force,’ and that there might be some validity to it? When you were young, did you ever point at an object and command it to come to you? The idea of the force–in many ways–parallels the very real concept of the Zen-force.

For me, the familiarity of the force makes up a three-part triangle: 1) The fictional/fantasy/magic force that exists in movies and our imagination, 2) the religious force that we learn from our parents and society, and 3) the Eastern Zen Buddhism force (or just Zen) that exists universally but which we are vaguely familiar with. In this article I’m writing strictly about the Zen-force as understood by Western culture.

For more than a decade I’ve been researching and implementing Zen into my life in a practical way. Specifically, I discovered a general Zen-force via hunting and my deep connection with nature. Today, I continue to use the Zen-force in archery, bowhunting, and almost everything else I do. For all intents and purposes, Zen is similar to religion, but at the same time, far from it. Zen is NOT in conflict with religion. Zen is simply a higher level of consciousness which can coexist with any religion.

To give you a better understanding, think of Zen as a natural force that flows through all natural things…just like Yoda said. Then, think of life, or “the miracle of life,” that exists in all living things. No one can really explain where life came from (outside religion). For the most part, we just accept it and then take it for granted. So why would ‘life’ and the ‘life-force’ be separate or any different? In this respect, Zen is no more a religion than is the mysterious power that we call “life.”

Have you ever noticed that Yoda looks similar to an old Japanese Zen master? Do you think it’s a coincidence? Zen Buddhism originated in China in the 6th century A.D. and was later adopted, perfected, and practiced in for centuries in Japan. Zen is continually taught through various meditational methods including swordsmanship, calligraphy, dancing, and even flower arrangement. And surprise, surprise, one of the most revered Zen disciplines is archery. But what is Zen exactly, and what does it have to do with archery?

In 2002 I had a major paradigm shift. A few days after harvesting an impressive trophy deer, I had a sudden realization that my success came neither from my hunting skills nor luck. It felt as if some kind of unknown force was guiding me on my hunts. Years later I learned about Zen and was amazed at how perfectly it fit into my routine meditations and practices preceding and during every hunt.

For today, think of Zen as a oneness with the Universe. Oneness comes from humility. Zen can only be achieved through humility. Humility comes from realizing you are infinitesimally small relative to the infinite universe. You are not an ocean, but a single drop in a vast ocean. The ocean you are part of is unfathomably large and powerful. At the same time, your thoughts and feelings and the life you are living might seem big and powerful, but it’s really a tiny part of the whole. And that’s where Zen comes in: If you can take your tiny, insignificant piece of life and harness the infinite power of the whole universe, then there is nothing you can’t accomplish. Zen simply provides the keys that unlock this immense power.

On a final note, Zen is far easier to achieve in Nature because there are no distractions. Zen is associated with meditation because meditation is a practice of quieting the mind. In my early years of hunting, I couldn’t quiet my mind. I spent the days frantically flailing around the woods looking for a deer to shoot before I ran out of time. Consequently, I achieved low success. In later years I spent more and more time hunting (alone). I also spent a lot more time just sitting and breathing. I noticed after about three or four days my mind-chatter would quiet down enough for me to really be in the moment; the infinite now, as they call it. It was only then that I had wonderful success in the woods.

Nowadays, my spirit goes into the woods far before my physical body. My physical body is here, working, driving around, answering calls, etc., but I’m just going through the motions of a modern man. In reality, I’m already gone. My energies are focused on the impending bowhunt. I am living in a continual state of meditation and mental preparation; I am preparing the way for Zen in hunting.

See previous two articles on Zen in Hunting at:

Zen in Hunting: Part 1

Zen in Hunting: Part 2

Secret Bowhunting Tip #5: Enlarge Your Consciousness


arrowheadEnlarge your consciousness. If your consciousness is small, you will experience smallness in every department of your life.
  –Robert Pante

Secret Bowhunting Tip: Enlarge Your Consciousness

I always wanted to find an arrowhead. I felt a great romanticism in stumbling across an ancient bowhunting artifact that paralleled my own plight as a modern hunter. Well, in 2013 it finally happened. On opening morning I headed out across a steep ridgeline on my annual quest for deer. I laid my bow on the ground and pulled up my binoculars to view the new surroundings. When I reached down to pick my bow up, I noticed a small, shiny, black object lying right next to my bow. My heart leapt! For a second I imagined an ancient hunter following his instincts—just as I had that morning—and walking the same path that I was on. It was a wonderful, serendipitous moment.

Big bucks are like arrowheads. What I mean is, you might hunt for years and years without seeing a truly giant buck. But given enough experience, inevitably you’ll stumble across one. Still yet, it may take several more years before you actually bag one. But if you persist in strengthening your skills and keeping an open mind, one day you’ll wrap your hands around some trophy antlers. Eventually, it won’t feel impossible, but inevitable. It’s all about enlarging your vision of success.

Two weeks after finding my first arrowhead, I found a second one. I’d moved to an entirely new section of the unit, and after setting up camp I hiked to a nearby stream for some water. Just before I got there, my eyes locked onto another black, shiny object. This arrowhead was even bigger and more perfect than the first one. I’m not sure that it was entirely coincidence.

Bigger bucks are just like bigger arrowheads. It might take many years to finally bag a big buck, but once you do, they’ll come easier. That was the case in 2013 when I found two arrowheads AND bagged the biggest buck of my life, dubbed Superbuck. The story I wrote for that deer was based entirely on building bigger success off of previous success.

Entrepreneurs frequently tell a similar story: It took years and years to earn their first million dollars, but a very short time and a lot less effort to earn their second million. As it turns out, success has more to do with our state of mind than anything else.

So, what does it mean, “To enlarge your consciousness?” When I first read this quote, I asked myself the same thing. Was I infinitely UN-successful in my finances, relationships, hunting, etc, because my vision of life was too small? Was I limited by my own physical brain or the evolutionary chain to have a small consciousness? Was I limited by my upbringing or my peer’s influence to have low success? Yes, I think so. But I wasn’t about to let it stop me from having success in bowhunting. What I needed to do was enlarge my consciousness beyond the old style of hunting that I’d grown up learning. So I struggled, studied, and fought against mediocrity, and after years of doing my own thing, I was finally a hunter reborn.

When I set my annual goal to harvest a trophy deer, I envision a real monster buck with huge mass and a wide, sweeping set of antlers. I am conscious of the fact that there are at least one of these stud-bucks in every general unit in the state; I just have to find it. I can set this goal because I know I will consciously and subconsciously do things differently than other hunters who just ‘hope’ for a nice four-point. I am also conscious of the near impossibility of the goal, but instead of getting discouraged, I just try harder.

I always wanted to find an arrowhead, and I found two. I’ve always wanted a 200” trophy mule deer buck, and now I have two. I’ve always wanted to ‘enlarge my consciousness,’ and now I have too.

Click here for the next tip, Secret Tip #6: Put in the Time

Secret Bowhunting Tip #2: Success is a Decision

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Secret Bowhunting Tip #2: Success is a Decision

It took half a lifetime to finally understand that success in bowhunting is a decision. Failure comes not from luck, but from failure to commit to the goal. The decision to succeed is not made a week or two before the hunt, but the very second the last season ends.

In sharing this insight with other bowhunters, I’m usually met with some skepticism or hesitated response. They want to agree with the premise, but don’t really understand it. So here’s what I mean:

When I make the decision to succeed—to arrow a great buck—I set a goal for the entire year. And it’s not just any goal, but the most difficult goal to reach. It’s so difficult because there are just too many variables in bowhunting, and no guarantees. What if I simply can’t find a buck this season?

By setting such a lofty goal, one’s mind begins making immediate preparations to accomplish it. This goal is broken down into planning, studying, shooting, equipment preparations, mind-set, and a myriad of other sub-goals.

Keeping this goal in the forefront of my mind, I find myself making daily decisions to achieve it. One example is to block out my intended hunting dates on the calendar. No matter what opportunity or “responsibility” arises, I adamantly refuse to alter my schedule. This year alone I’ve turned down two potentially profitable jobs because they would interfere with my hunt dates. Admittedly this can be very difficult for some people. Most jobs will allow one week off work, or two if you’re lucky. The sad fact is, if you let your all-important job interfere with your hunting schedule, then you CANNOT set the goal in the first place. The decision isn’t yours to make, thus you must prepare for failure.

Making such a big goal sets a precedence upon which failure is not an option. If you are truly committed, subconsciously you will make mental and spiritual goals which you aren’t even aware of; goals which will seemingly magically bring you and your quarry together into a single space and time.

As prepared as I might be, successful bowhunting still feels overwhelming to me at times. I believe that bowhunting is the hardest thing a person can do successfully and consistently. I also know that there are greater forces at work than I can ever understand which will increase my odds. Call it the power of positive thinking. Call it Zen.

There is nothing more magical than the breaking dawn of a season opener. And there is nothing more deflating than last light of an unsuccessful season closer. I have no intention of ever experiencing a failed season again. I’ve made the decision!

Click here for my Secret Bowhunting Tip #3: Be Patient

Part 4: The Good Fight

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The Good Fight

“Keep up the good fight.”

How many times have you heard that? “Keep up the good fight!” What the heck does it mean?

In my last post, I wrote about adversity and how each year, right before the bowhunt, the metaphoric ‘steely claws’ tighten their grip, making life downright miserable. As this disrupts my focus on the hunt—the one thing I fight for all year long—then I have no choice but to fight back. So today, I’m addressing the good fight.

My research tells me that ‘the good fight’ is a reference to the biblical figure, Paul, who said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7) Though once a Christian reference, the good fight now refers to anyone who fights for what they believe in.

For me, the good fight is the fight against evil or any unfair person or entity. It’s the fight against selfishness and those who unfairly take advantage of others. It’s the fight against governmental intrusion into our personal lives, over-taxation, ignorance, and general stupidity. I fight against anyone who tries to steal or destroy my feedom, property, or peace of mind. Sometimes I simply fight weeds in my garden or insects in my house. I fight daily for my tiny little space on this planet.

Now, let’s get back to the Christian reference. In Christianity there’s a whole lot of gospel about forgiveness, turning the other cheek, and basically maintaining the peace. I like that…but it doesn’t apply here. After all, Paul was a fighter. He fought the good fight (whatever that was), and ever since, Christians have been fighting against something, whether it was persecution, evil, or for our country’s freedom. Occasionally throughout history, Christians even went looking for a fight, as was the case with the Crusades and the Thirty Years’ War. The point is, good people always have and always will fight for what they believe in. That’s the good fight!

Years ago I was on a bowhunt and minding my own business. I returned to my truck one night and found that someone had cut up my back tires with a knife. Long story short, I was lucky to get off the mountain. For a long while, I was filled with pure hatred and ready to fight. But with no known assailant or motive, I wasn’t allowed to fight, nor was allowed to forgive. Thus, the fight stuck with me for a long time.

As with any marriage, my wife and I occasionally have a good ol’ fashioned brawl. We’re both somewhat bull-headed and prone to skirmishes. But later, after we’ve made up,  she tells me how she hates fighting. And in a jovial way, I tell her that I love fighting! Fighting is how you resolve problems and address relationship-corroding issues. Like it or not, fighting is progress. After a good fight we usually feel better. It’s just a matter of perspective, I guess.

In the recent past, I had two conversations about the good fight with two different people with whom I’m close to. They are both good people, but had exact opposite opinions. The first person said something along the lines of, “You shouldn’t fight! It’s a waste of energy. Instead, lie low and stay out off the radar. That’s what you need to do to protect yourself and your family.”

At first this made a little sense. But after further contemplation, I realized I’d never heard anything more selfish and stupid. His argument admits there will always be evil, but we shouldn’t do anything to stop it. What a pile of crap! In his defense, he was trying to convince me not to be a martyr; not to waste my energy fighting “the system,” a battle which I can never win. But I still disagree.

The second person I talked to is a fighter. He believes you should always fight. He actively fights against liberalism, stupidity, government intrusion, over-taxation, corruption, and any other kind of evil on a daily basis. He’s a family man, a devout father, and a Christian. He’s humble and kind and one of the few great people I know.

I say fight the good fight! Fight evil where you can. Avenge the evil done unto the innocent. Hunt the hunters. Any person or entity that exacts purposeful harm onto another person should be fought.

By absorbing all the pain caused by unchecked aggression, you invite despair, depression, and madness into your life. When I was a kid, my dad said, “If anyone bully’s you at school, I want you to punch them square in the nose as hard as you can. Don’t worry about getting in trouble; I’ll back you up.” Now, my dad was a very peaceful person, but he knew that by allowing myself to be bullied would set my life up for failure.

Kids these days are encouraged NEVER to fight back. When my son was very young, I told him to fight back against bully who hurt him. Much to my chagrin, he refused adamantly, pleading that it was ‘against the rules.’ This pacifism attitude is very unhealthy in the long run, as well as completely un-natural. Without the fight, some kids eventually absorb so much mental torture that they crack, and one day they bring a gun to school and kill a bunch of innocent people. And every time this happens, society divides the blame into  three categories: 1) blame the gun, 2) blame the bully, and 3) blame mental illness. The truth is: BLAME SOCIETY for teaching the kids NEVER to fight.

In conclusion, life can turn on you in a second. There is too much evil and too many controlling mechanisms all collaborating against you. Happiness is fleeting and no one is immune to calamity. By ignoring the good fight—by allowing blatant evil to thrive—you indirectly hurt the innocent. It reminds me of a quote by Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Evil thrives in a pacific society that teaches kids never to fight. Fighting back is healthy and natural. If you never fight, you’ll eventually lose your freedom, and then your mind.

Fight the good fight!

Click below to read the three previous articles:

Part 1:  Overcoming Adversity

Part 2: The Steely Claws

Part 3: Constants, Controls, and Variables

Part 3: Constants, Controls, and Variables

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Controls, Constants, and Variables in Life

So, this is a good year; my worst was 2008. I won’t get into the specifics, but rather what I learned as a result of determined contemplation of what adversity means:

Life is made up of three controlling mechanisms. They are as follows:

    1. Constants: Things you cannot change: i.e. genetics, age, physiology, general appearance, I.Q., gender, etc.
    2. Controls: Circumstances or occurrences that are out of your control: i.e. accidents, illness, other people, the economy, death, etc.
    3. Variables: Things which you have control over: i.e. attitude, lifestyle, relationships, career, extracurricular activities, etc.

These three mechanisms of control dictate our daily struggle, mind-set, attitude, and ultimately our success. We can control some things, and are controlled by others. But what I want to focus on today is the greatest enemy of peace, which is Controls. Controls is the great fear and the great unknown. It can change your life in a second and you never see it coming. It is the finger of God. It is fate.

 Some may argue that our attitude can eliminate the effects of controls, or that our happiness is purely dictated by our negative reaction to stressful events. This is the case when, say, your car breaks down or you catch a cold. But if your son gets flattened by a garbage truck or your house burns down, well, positive thinking won’t help much, at least not in the short run. You are no longer in control, but being controlled.

So what can you do to avoid controls?

Nothing. You don’t have to like it; flee from it if you can. We are justified in fearing Controls. You can never control the Controller. But when crap happens, fight it if you can, embrace it if you can’t. Turn tragedy into action, not reaction, and you’ll get through it, eventually, and  be stronger for it.

You will always have controls. This is how we learn and grow; this is the purpose of life. There is no pleasure without pain. The knife is honed by friction.

Click here for Part 4: The Good Fight

Part 2: The Steely Claws

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Overcoming Adversity: The Steely Claws of Responsibility

In my book, Zen Hunting, I address two important life concepts which arerelated. The first is what I talked about in my last blog (Adverse Conditions), and the second is “the steely claws of responsibility.”

The steely claws of responsibility represent the controlling aspects of daily life which causes stress and affects our mood in adverse ways. These metaphoric ‘claws’ grasp hold of us when we least expect it and keep us from our goals or happiness. Examples might be a car crash, a serious illness, family emergencies, financial struggles, etc.

How do the steely claws relate to bowhunting? Allow me to get personal:

This year was going quite well in almost every way, and until recently I thought I’d be going into the bowhunt next month with a stress-free mind and a positive attitude. But, in just the last week or two, I have endured surprise attacks from every direction: financial woes, family problems, work problems, and car problems. As the stress and negativity mounted, I was suddenly hit with déjà vu. This sort of thing seems to happen every year at almost the same time, and in similar ways, and as far back as 1997 when my now ex-wife ran off with another man from her work. That year I went into the woods feeling like I was going to throw up on my boots. The fact is I can’t remember the last time I entered the peaceful woods without some huge, black cloud looming over me.

This is just how life works. You see, when I go into the woods this year, I’m going to shoot an innocent and beautiful animal to death in cold blood with a razor-tipped arrow, and maybe watch it die right in front of me. Do you think that sort of action is free? Do you think the God of  Nature would allow this without some sort of sacrifice? Every culture in the world previous to ours knew this. But somehow we forgot.

Nowadays, a failed hunt results in a little disappointment, and maybe a razzing from fellow hunters. In ancient times, a failed hunt meant starvation. Do you think those ancient peoples—for tens of thousands of years—didn’t experience some level of stress prior to and during the great hunt?

And so I embrace it. The long-term effects of stress can be very harmful, but the short-term effects are good. Stress raises my heart rate, focuses my mind, and separates the trivial from the important. The regular seepage of adrenaline into my blood gives me an energy boost on an otherwise hot and lazy day. My patience is thinner, but my decisions are quicker and clearer.

As dreadful as they are, ‘the steely claws of responsibility’ exist to help me succeed in hunting and life.

Click here for Part 3: Controls, Constants, and Variables

Zen Bowhunter Blog: Maiden Voyage

 

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My New Zen Bowhunting Blog

It’s happening early this year! That hunter instinct is creeping in, and the bowhunt is still two months away. I guess it’s just been on my mind…

…hence my new bowhunting BLOG.

Welcome everyone to The Zen Hunter blog. The purpose of this blog is not to sell anything, but to help people, bowhunters and Zen seekers alike. In this blog, I wish to share my experience and expertise in the field of bowhunting while expanding on the subject of Zen, archery, and hunting.

At this point you might be asking yourself, “What is Zen hunting?”

Basically “Zen” is the grasp of the spiritual universe outside of physical observances. It is a concept (not a religion) stmming from the Eastern philosophy of achieving a ‘oneness’ with the world, usually associated with meditation, formal or informal. Zen is associated with the sixth sense which allows a subtle command of physical elements outside normal human understanding.

Zen hunting is simply the application of Zen to hunting, just as Zen can be applied to anything else we do, ranging from gardening to swordsmanship.

My Qualifications

Your next question might be, “What qualifies this blogger (me) to write on such subjects as Zen and bowhunting?”

Simply put, I’ve been an avid bowhunter since 1996, and over the course of these past 18 years I have found my own personal Zen via regular trips alone into Nature. In just the last five years I have arrowed three Pope & Young trophy animals, all within 20 yards, and all with very little effort on my part. Throughout this period I realized that ‘Zen’ is a process of letting go. In other words, the less you try, the more you gain.

As the years pile up behind me, I’m beginning to realize that the natural progression of life is first, to explore ones passions, second, to master the things you’re passionate about, and finally, to share this accumulated knowledge with others by teaching.

In 2012 I published my first book on Zen hunting, entitled, Zen Hunting (eBook now available on Amazon). The idea for this book was first conceived in 2002 after a particularly enlightening and successful hunt. It then took ten years to really understand the magnitude of this concept and materialize it into a sprawling, 200-page book about the meaning and purpose of life!

For today, just remember one thing: hunting is more art than a science In order to achieve the greatest success in hunting, you must be willing to expand your consciousness beyond just the killing and the gear.  My mission is to help people along this path.

As this post is now in peril of running amuck, I will digress. Stay tuned for regular postings, and please, comment and/or pose questions at will. Thank you for reading!

Below is a short excerpt from my book:

July

There’s a certain point in mid-July when everything begins to change. Midday shadows grow longer, inch by inch, day by day. The slightest change in the earth’s angle to the sun is detected deep inside of me and it stirs my whole being. A switch is flipped and my senses sharpen with anticipation for something great. The air and the ground comes to life as if charged with an electrical current which flows through all things, and through me, then out again, bringing all of life into focus and oneness.

By August, the weather is hinting of fall and the great harvest. Afternoon gusts of dry, hot air carry with it nostalgic aromas of ripening vegetation that will accompany me into the depths of the woods and back into the womb of Mother Nature.