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The Samurai Zen Cat

By May 31st, 2022No Comments3 min read

This is from a old Samurai Zen story (you can read the entire story in the book ‘Samurai Wisdom’ by Pascal Fauliot), where a Samurai is trying to get rid of a very smart rat in his house with better and stronger hunter cats, when at the end the unlikely cat to ever catch a rat ended up getting him without any effort at all. There are some great lessons here, where you can identify with different parts of the story for a different perspective. Which character in the story resonates with you, and why? At different times in your life, this will always be changing as you learn and grow.

What I got from this story, was to trust in the process. Take the approach of ‘try easy’ and not force it so hard all the time, constantly searching for the never ending ‘faster, better, stronger’, when it turns out you could be far more powerful without that effort in the first place, winning the battle without fighting. This is about turning a weakness into a strength, using simplicity to your advantage, ‘hitting them with nothing’. Simplicity and effortlessness in nature is powerful. I remember hiking through Monument Valley in Utah where there are breathtaking giant rock formations that were forged over millions of years effortlessly by the natural processes of the earth. In the beginning of the story the Samurai is trying to win by going the ‘faster, better, stronger’ route. This can create a cycle of ‘the harder you try, the less result you get’. You may have heard the story of the martial arts student with a drive to master the skill quickly. He said to his teacher earnestly, “I am devoted to studying your martial system. How long will it take me to master it.” The teacher’s reply was casual, “Ten years.” Impatiently, the student answered, “But I want to master it faster than that. I will work very hard. I will practice everyday, ten or more hours a day if I have to. How long will it take then?” The teacher thought for a moment, “20 years.”

You could also learn from the rat, who became over confident and lost his edge when there were no predator cats around to push him to be his best. When he saw the fat lazy cat he let his guard down, rested on his laurels, and became lazy himself, which led to his end. We can also learn from the Samurai himself to trust in the process. Or maybe we could learn from the monk, to help others to see the strength in the natural processes around us.

In the drumming world, ‘faster, better, stronger’ is everywhere, which you’ll see on Youtube in 5 minutes. But sometimes the true Jedi’s of our craft are not so obvious. Listen to the song ‘Gravity’ by John Mayer, where Steve Jordan is drumming. The way he bends time to push and pull the song without rushing or dragging, gently creating some tension during the guitar solo and laying back during the verses, is truly a ‘Zen Cat’ moment. Or the way John Bonham’s hihat ‘pushes, but lays back’ in When The Levee Breaks. John Bonham is another Zen Cat.

Don’t be distracted by the flashy ones all around you making noise, but instead look for the true masters right in front of you, accomplishing everything with no-thing. Take this lesson in your life, and win the battle without ever fighting.

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