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Growing up, especially with an ogre for an older brother, everyone for themselves was an important part of survival. This expanded as I got older to avoiding the predators that my father would bring home. Being on guard against manipulation was paramount.
Logically, when I began dating, I understood that giving was important, but wound up in an LTR which reflected the take aspect more than give, and I found myself with the short end of the stick again.
In the midst of that relationship, I decided to become an uchideshi and requested to join the program. I was very thankful that my sensei accepted me. I didn't fully understand the depth of the internal work necessary while training as an uchideshi but it was exactly what I needed.
Give up your ego, exist for the continuance of the dojo, just be in that place of service. What? All the deep survival elements within me were hitting reject buzzers, especially since there was such a struggle of will between my partner and I at the time.
There was a zen-like place which I found myself while cleaning the shomen, or working in the garden. I really like clearing brush and digging trenches. It feels like simple, meditative, noble work. Using an axe like doing tanrenuchi allowed me to readress my wants in life, my path, my perspective on how I meet the world and the people in it. Improving my shomen cuts became only part of the activity. Developing a few 'cuts' of definition in my delts was just icing.
For the moments of letting go of ego the one saving grace for me was that my two best buddies at the time were former and current uchideshi [both with 2 and 2 1/2years respectively], and they were always there when I was unsure.
So I wasn't the perfect uchideshi, sadly I never perfected the 'take initiative, but stay in the background' thing. The experience however was transcending. Yes, my technique, my reaction time, my improvisation, improved dramatically, but the real growth for me was the change in realizing that selfless service has its benefits as well. Ego is still important, but the ability to set it aside is a valuable skill [though I'm still training].
Now, if someone needs something, I try to think of why I can do something for them as opposed to why I can't. The small ways, like when someone says 'hey, that sandwich looks good.' and I offer them half, are easy, though often questioned by the receiver of the sandwich. Funny that I find myself trying to convince someone to take something that I would've questionned when I was younger as well.
Now, don't get me wrong. This is still a keiko of understanding limitations. I have had people say 'I don't do things like that because people will take advantage of you.' I agree that that can happen. The facets to consider are 1] is it a gift or do you expect something in return? If you feel taken advantage of in a moment of service, then it might not be as selfless as first thought. 2] Can you still say no? There are times when someone is in need but you do not have the capacity to help them, 'no' keiko is appropriate.