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I went into the office for a few hours yesterday - something I hadn't done yet this whole year, as I work off site now. It was a crisp, sunny fall afternoon, and was excited about seeing my friends there. A quick visit, checking out a new tool I'd be using on the cool project I'm working on, catching up with a few colleagues, and then I'd be heading to the dojo to assist in the kids' class and train in the two evening classes. The makings of a pretty awesome day.
I parked in the usual garage, on the 5th level, and headed for the stairs down to the street. When I saw them I was struck by something I hadn't thought about in years. I stopped and stood there so long, just looking, that the security guard came over to see if everything was OK.
It's funny the things that you forget.
When I first started training I could not climb these stairs, not up or down. My knees couldn't take it. Every day I had to detour and take the elevator. I could do a few steps. But whole flights of stairs, no. The pain behind my kneecaps just wouldn't let me. It's been so long ago, so much has changed, I'd forgotten it completely.
There was so much wrong, back then. I had the knee pain, of course, and shoulder problems that had required surgery and ongoing PT. Plantar fasciaitis meant I had to wear heavy hiking shoes with orthotics, and even with them I couldn't walk far. Every morning I woke
Last night's classes were all great fun, and the last one was a bit different.
First, in the kids class, we reviewed a very direct kind of kokyu-ho from gyakute-dori, focusing on extending energy out beyond Uke. It's interesting to watch the kids working on that. At first Sensei had them work by themselves, just standing in hanmi and extending energy through their outstretched, relaxed arms and fingers While they seem to get that idea of extension, when they went to working in pairs they seemed unable to trust that it alone was sufficient. Instead of simply extending their arm out past uke's center, most of them resorted almost immediately to trying to push Uke over by shoving into Uke's neck or face with their upper arm, and rotating across Uke's center, clotheslining them. We probably all do this, especially as beginners in this particular technique, but in everything really. It's hard to trust the correct energy and form will ultimately produce the best outcome, so we fall back on trying to force things to happen the way we think they should.
Next, in the all levels adult class, weworked on a few techniques from ryote-dori (grabbing both wrists from the front), including tenshi-nage, kokyu-ho, and an interesting combination of the two, where the near hand does kokyu-ho while the far hand essentially executes the top half of tenshi-nage. The class was very technical, in a kind of centering and meditative way, really focusing on the minutia of our movements. A few goo
One morning recently a group of high school students visited the dojo to experience a special class, to get a feel for what Aikido has to offer us. They were a very nice bunch of young people - thoughtful, articulate, and open-minded. Aikido is a really broad and challenging subject to grasp in only an hour or so, but they picked things up pretty quickly, and made some very perceptive and insightful observations. It occurred to me that at their age they have developed quite good language skills, and still retain the clarity of vision and honesty that children have - not yet jaded.
A theme throughout the class was looking at Aikido as a practice of noticing and letting go of our resistance in life. Our natural inclination in relationship to others is to be light, open, joyful, loving, to see clearly, express ourselves, and trust. To be connected. But when resistance blocks that way of being we are left with anger, sadness, cynicism, living in fear and confusion. Shut down and alone.
At one point Sensei was demonstrating a blend, with me as uke. He was showing what it looks like when we are coming from resistance, tight, cringing, contracted. Maybe being pushy or reactive. I'm sure I've forgotten the exact words, but he was asking something like "what is my resistance keeping me from expressing?" The kids threw out a few answers safe answers. And then from one girl, "Your love for her."
There were some uncomfortable giggles. It may have sounded like she was teasing. B
[This is not particularly Aikido-related, but I wrote it on a 20-hour train trip on the way to an Aikido seminar this past weekend. Since I posted it on GrabMyWrist.com I figured I should share it here, too. I'll be compiling some brief posts and quotes from the weekend into a single post here later today, too.
You think of the beautiful Italian woman you waited with at the station, conversing in Spanish - the common ground you share. She's in your home town for 20 days, making a side trip today, with her sundress, cheerful tote bag, and elegant cream shawl. Utterly alone, yet happy and secure, 6,500 miles from home. The train calls you each to different cars, and with a smile and a quick wave you know you will never see her again. If she told you her name, you've forgotten it already.
You write in your red notebook, and a friendly-looking woman takes the seat next to you. Thankfully she nods and lets you be. As her stop approaches you strike up a brief conversation. She rides this train to work most days. Beats driving. She wishes you a good trip, and is gone.
You check Facebook. Another friend has lost her horse. Half a dozen in the space of a month. Neurological disease, laminitis, snake bite, heart failure… Best friends for years, decades… And now an empty stall and a broken heart. You wish her peace. She did all anyone could. Sometimes there's nothing anyone can do.
At Union Station, with its leather seats and elaborately-tiled walls, you wait for your next train. You notice the young, rosy-cheeked woman next to you is not napping, but Ill. When roused she's uncoordinated and slurring. She fumbles through her purse and finds a blood glucose test kit. Uh oh. She's dropping things. You offer a small bunch of grapes, but she has to check f
Exquisite. I had to look it up just now to be sure I had exactly the right word.
"Of special beauty or charm, or rare and appealing excellence, as music, or poetry. Extraordinarily fine. Intense; acute, or keen, as pleasure or pain. Of rare excellence of production or execution, as works of art or workmanship. Keenly or delicately sensitive or responsive."
Yep. That's it. Tonight's classes were exquisite. Another of those "I don't know how Sensei does that" evenings.
I'd better back up a few steps, since a lot of things came together for me:
I've been reading Dan Millman's "The Way of the Peaceful Warrior" in which his training includes some intense self-discipline, and he manages that successfully (mostly). I found that admirable, enviable, and lacking in my own life.
I have signed up for the week-long Living Embodiment Conference in November 2012, and I'm really excited about it, even though it's not for months yet. Something about this work speaks to me, especially as experienced and expressed through Aikido.
I keep telling myself I want to lose those last few pounds. And yet I find myself drawn to the kitchen, or mysteriously eating more than I really should. It's not that hard, I've done it before… but it's like I'm not paying attention. At all.
Over the weekend I had things I wanted to get done. I did some of them, but piddled around and neglected many others. By Sunday night my car was still a mess, and I hadn't started my laundry. Then today I could
This is an image that came to me in my work during the Evolutionary Aikido seminar this weekend with Patrick Cassidy Sensei and Dave Goldberg Sensei. If I could draw or paint, and had the time, this post would be a hand-drawn, sketchy animation. Maybe just a sequence of still drawings, one dissolving into the next. Since that would take me months, and the results would be poor at best, I'll give you the storyboard in words instead.
Scene: We are inside a big, closed room. We see a person in the room. There are some things in the room - a table, a chair, a bookcase, a phone, a television, dishes, a bed... Simple things for living.
Action: Our person is sitting, studying, working, exercising, eating. Living life, in their room.
Scene: The things, or the person's orientation in the room, make it impossible for them to see that there are doors, but we can see the doors. Or maybe there a faint outlines - maybe a lot of them - but our person doesn't notice them. Doors to other rooms? Doors to outside? Doors to who-knows-where... Unseen, unnoticed, unopened doors.
Action: Our person continues living in the room. We see signs of aging.
Every so often someone outside the room opens a door a little, letting in a stream of of brilliant, warm light. We can see color and space through the open door. We hear something, maybe birds or voices.
Maybe our person notices, maybe they don't. Maybe they make a huge effort at sliding the bookcase to cover the open door, and go back
Today we sit on Sensei's deck,
the ocean glinting twenty miles away.
Weathered bamboo clatters softly overhead
as we settle in to sit, scattered lightly
like leaves blown into cool shady corners,
or lizards, basking on the warm wood in the sun.
I choose the shade.
Forty minutes? I'm used to just fifteen.
I see the sea, feel the air,
hear the birds, and close my eyes
as Sensei sounds a small, clear chime.
A dozen little birds chatter down the hill,
a faraway crow gives three short caws,
and I wonder what might come up in forty minutes
that's managed to keep itself hidden from fifteen.
A small plane hums overhead, and I think of flying.
When I flew I got bit, hard. I loved flying.
I had a great teacher, and a community of friends.
I was never going to stop flying.
And then I stopped flying.
I worry, briefly, about that rhythm to things.
Flying, engineering, music...
Is it just that, the rhythm of things?
They come, stay for a time, and go?
They go with good reason, but they go.
A neighbor's horse gives a sharp snort.
Right. And horses too.
What about Aikido?
The thought of someday not training anymore,
not wanting to train, not missing it...
It's unimaginable, gut-wrenching.
But could it go, too, in time?
The flying, engineering, music, and horses,
those were things I was trying to become,
was trying to get good at, would be someday.
They were places I did not belong,
and was struggling to get to.
When I saw this about
Sensei asked, at the beginning of one of our meditation sittings, a question for us to consider: "What if you had an unlimited supply of something everyone on earth wanted?"
Deep breath in, and out. Letting the eyes close.
The obvious answer is our love. But does everyone really want love? My love? Do I want theirs? What if everyone wants everyone else's love? Why not give it to them? Why do we hold back? What would we lose? How would the world be if we all loved each other without reservation? Is there a downside to that?
What if it were our approval? Would it be better to give it to just anyone, freely? Does that really serve them? Or does that make it meaningless? If you are accepting and reassuring for no reason, that's kind of hollow.
But loving people doesn't make love meaningless.
What if were a thing, like gold? Then the scarcity is exactly what makes it valuable. If you have a lot of it, and just dump it one everyone, then its value is lost. So by your intent to be generous you've not given anyone anything of real value.
If you dole it out a little at a time, or to just a few people, it keeps it value. But are you doing that so the people who have it will appreciate it? Or so they will be beholden to you? Is it a selfish ego thing to hold back? Or is it wise stewardship of a resource? I suppose it's in how you think about it.
Deep breath in, and out, noticing the expansion in the ribs, and wooshing of air in the nostrils. In, and out
A couple of years ago, after my first few months in Aikido, I had a vivid dream, which I posted about then. When I woke up I could see and feel it in great detail, and I still can. It wasn't until later that day I realized it was about Aikido.
In the dream I suddenly found myself in a totally unfamiliar, incomprehensible new world. A simple, quiet, calm place, where the people seemed to share a sense of purpose and belonging. Sensei was an old, wise woman, a compassionate leader, trusted by the people. I knew there was no going back, that this was to be my new life. I was upset, but I knew I was safe. I knew the leader and the people could be trusted.
And that's exactly how it's been.
On a recent Thursday evening, just two days before a friend's exam for 4th kyu, I limped into the dojo hoping I could at least sit for the 15 minutes of meditation before class. I had gotten out of a chair the wrong way, and badly screwed up something in my right hip. I'd been kept up by the pain most of the previous night, and had only gotten around the house that day by using a jo as a walking stick. My dear husband, Michael, drove me to the dojo, because he knows how I am. He insisted that I go, if only to watch. Bless his heart.
I had been training with my friend for her exam. When I got to the dojo I told Sensei that I wouldn't be able to take ukemi for her - he'd need to find someone else. In the past, never half as bad as this time, it had taken weeks for my hip to get bette