(In Chapter 6, Brady Cooper wondered about his fellow crewmates’ spirituality. If only he knew...)
Mugen. Mutoto. Muryou. Mushi. Mushuu.
That which is without beginning and without end, without limit and without volume, that which cannot be seen, touched, heard, smelled, or tasted, but whose presence can be sensed and felt in every tree, every rock, every stream and every hill. Everyone and everything. Everywhere.
We are all part of it, as it is what gives us life. We are all connected, we are all aspects of the Hataraki of the universe, the universe aware of itself and yet unaware of itself.
Legs crossed, right foot resting gently upside on her left knee, Sanvi Janes clasped her hands in front of her tanden, just below her diaphragm, and let out a slow, deep breath. Counting ten seconds, she paused, waited three more seconds, then slowly, deeply, breathed in for seven seconds. Hold. Three seconds. Exhale. Pause. Inhale. Hold. Repeat without thinking. Empty the mind. Clear the machine.
Sanvi had been practicing mushin, mind no mind meditation, for most of her adult life. Her parents had initially disapproved. Her father, a devout Lutheran, claimed it was simply her rejection of religion. Her mother, nominally Hindu but essentially non-practicing, said it represented an ancient, foolish attempt to recreate superstitious rites of the best-forgotten past. The then-college student Sanvi had mocked them both as sticks in the mud. What did they know about the Path and the Way? What did they know about the true nature of things? After her younger brother Aaron had died — asphyxiation, of a faulty airsuit during the move to the Lunar Base — they had no right to force her to trust their archaic belief systems. Martial arts and meditation had given her something her parents never could: a centered self. She started training as a hobby, then for health, but eventually it became her life.
Inhale. Hold. Exhale. Pause. Repeat.
“What’s the point of meditation?” her father had asked, sarcastically. “Does God talk to you directly?”
“There is no God,” Sanvi insisted stubbornly. “There is no Heaven. No Hell. There just is.”
“You think you’re so much smarter now,” his response. “So much smarter than your poor old parents, clinging to their old-fashioned beliefs in something better than ourselves, something higher.”
No, it wasn’t like that. It was not a rejection of an ideal. It was a vision.
“I don’t understand,” her mother said, bemoaning her daughter’s martial arts practices. “You say you seek deeper understanding, yet this comes with all the kicking and punching and throwing of other people. You come home with ugly purple bruises all over. Is this Enlightenment?”
Sanvi shook her head, trying to clear the images, the words, the emotions. Peaceful mind, empty the thoughts, don’t even think of thinking.
Inhale. Hold. Exhale. Pause. Repeat.
Another image floated out from her memories. The first time she witnessed the paired forms practice, the first time she observed the group meditation at a college training hall.
She remembered how violent, how quick, yet how graceful and fluid the motions looked. The poise and mutual respect, the utter confidence the sparring partners showed. Tension as the two faced each other, the split second silence of staring, as if they could read each other’s souls. The shuffling of the cotton uniforms and bare-foot gliding steps. The snap of the leg, arm block and counter-move. The takedown throw and roll of the thrown, bouncing effortlessly back on their feet and facing off again.
She wanted that poise. Needed that grace.
“It’s not a block,” her shido-shi told her much later. “It is a reception. Receive the blow. Accept it. Use it. Transform it into a self-expression.”
After years of practice, first as a student, then even as a lower ranking teacher, she still didn’t fully understand. The forms, the breathing, the mind over substance, the teachings.
Complete understanding remained as elusive as ever, just beyond her grasp.
Silently, feeling her tanden expand and contract as she slipped further into no-mind, she heard the words:
Rightness of thought.
Rightness of speech.
Rightness of deed.
Rightness of mind.
Rightness of understanding…
Her face flushed, her body trembling with adrenaline, Sanvi stood in the middle of the concrete floor, facing off her opponent, a fellow kenshi from her biochemical engineering lab. Seconds into the session, Sanvi knew she could best the man. She was faster, her techniques were sharper.
A half-second pause, and the two moved. She saw the foot, then the hand, but she had underestimated the angle of the incoming fist. It glanced off her faceguard as she twisted her torso to avoid the blow. In fury at herself, she seized the leg and threw. Not waiting for him to regain his footing, she advanced, intending to pommel him from behind. He fell, rolled, crouched and instinctively raised a hand to ward off the next incoming blow. Sanvi came back to herself before she finished the strike and heard her voice.
“Sorry, sorry! Are you all right?”
No damage had been done. Lucky. Her face flushed again, with embarrassment. As the higher ranking spar partner, she should have been able to better control her anger.
Shido-shi chastised her.
“Heijo-shin, Sanvi. Control your thoughts. Calm your mind. Accept. Do not think of consequence.”
She struggled with the peaceful mind. A daily struggle. Especially on board the Artemis.
Her thoughts wandered to the cargo hold. Focused on the takedown, the confrontation with Gennaji.
She didn’t know how Riss would react. Only that she should protect her captain. Her friend.
There was no real need to slam the man down so hard. But she couldn’t help it. She had seen his contempt, his arrogance, his lack of respect for her captain. More than anything, she had wanted to show that she, herself, Sanvi, was a worthy opponent. Not someone to be ignored.
She almost lost control. Heijo-shin.
Clear the machine.
Breathe. Inhale. Hold.
She remembered the first time she met Riss. On Ceres, during her stint with the asteroid ore processing plant. The job was boring. Uneventful. Filled with safety checks, routine maintenance, shipping schedules and monthly quotas and computer log entries.
Nothing interesting for an ore transport flight deck trainee.
Asteroid hunting seemed exciting. Enticing. Much more challenging and eventful. And Riss was the first female captain that Sanvi had ever met. So sure of herself, cocky and independent. Even after she had learned about the accident with Lena, Sanvi knew that Riss was someone who could teach her how to become equally as independent and indomitable in spirit.
I fall down seven times, I get up eight.
But asteroid hunting turned out just as tedious. Flight paths and records. Restrictions on catches and retrievals. Standard pings and telemetry procedures. Seemingly endless stretches of empty space with nothing to do.
And hardly any space and time for practice. Unless the cargo hold was empty. Which it never was.
Practice. She had meant to go back to her computer programming lessons, the way she had Earthside. Before the move to Luna.
Sanvi opened her eyes. Her breath was in disarray, out of rhythm. She pounded the side of a fist against the wall, and heard a muffled complaint from the other side. Enoch.
Screw him, she thought.
Aaron. I still haven’t forgiven them. Or forgotten you.
The tears came again, as usual, unbidden and sudden.
She wiped them away with the heel of her hand and hit the wall again.
Heijo-shin. Why was this always so hard?
Next: Bringer of Light, Chapter 8: Enoch (Coming 12/12)