Be the Tsunami that You Are

Wave by Lee Fenyves

Wave by Lee Fenyves

Here’s a great short story to remind you of who you are.

In the early days of the Meiji era there lived a well-known wrestler called O-nami, Great Waves.

O-nami was immensely strong and knew the art of wrestling. In his private bouts he defeated even his teacher, but in public he was so bashful that his own pupils threw him.

O-nami felt he should go to a Zen master for help. Hakuju, a wandering teacher, was stopping in a little temple nearby, so O-nami went to see him and told him of his trouble.

“Great Waves is your name,” the teacher advised, “so stay in this temple tonight. Imagine that you are those billows. You are no longer a wrestler who is afraid. You are those huge waves sweeping everything before them, swallowing all in their path. Do this and you will be the greatest wrestler in the land.”

The teacher retired. O-nami sat in meditation trying to imagine himself as waves. He thought of many different things. Then gradually he turned more and more to the feeling of the waves. As the night advanced the waves became larger and larger. They swept away the flowers in their vases. Even the Buddha in the shrine was inundated. Before dawn the temple was nothing but the ebb and flow of an immense sea.

In the morning the teacher found O-nami meditating, a faint smile on his face. He patted the wrestler’s shoulder. “Now nothing can disturb you,” he said. “You are those waves. You will sweep everything before you.”

The same day O-nami entered the wrestling contests and won. After that, no one in Japan was able to defeat him.

Notice the ways in which you are different in private versus social settings. Do you excel in isolation and struggle to bring your gifts and magic into the public sphere? If so, what are you going to do about it?

At perhaps no other time in history are you needed. Seriously.  Chew, digest, share. If not a Tsunami, then what metaphor are you identified with?

This Koan comes from a great Zen Koan site. Check it out here.


  • Daniel

    Reply Reply November 11, 2009

    I’m vastly different in one on one, group and public group. One on One, a bit sullen and introverted (sulky), In a group of people I trust or at a small party of people I’ll never see again (nothing to loose) I am a laugh riot, fun, odd, but the life. In a public group or group of “hopeful peers” a bit withheld, I’ve also noticed that I tend to stand behind someone in the public group as well.

  • Bryce

    Reply Reply November 11, 2009

    Precisely what I’m “wrestling with”. Except that this “bashfulness” (or, fear) can settle in, even when it’s just me (there is no isolation, for the ever-aware mind). Good stuff. Thanks, Jayson.

  • Diego

    Reply Reply December 15, 2009

    I do feel that I have trouble bringing myself and my gifts into the public sphere. Honestly, I don't know what to do about it. I'm trying to be honest with myself about things all the time but it's easy to lose myself and my awareness in social situations.

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