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[Written Nov. 27, but I forgot to post it until now.]
Every so often I need to discover all over again that I run on music. My life has a soundtrack. The words and temperament of music affect me. This is good to know, even if I forget it from time to time.
This most recent period of forgetting about music was brought on by a broken input to my car stereo. I can't listen to my music in the car, and so I just got out of the habit of having music on at all. And incidentally I've been feeling a bit… stuck? bogged down? serious? slow? Something like that.
Then yesterday I was listening to Jane Savoie, a coach to past Olympic equestrian teams (dressage), in her series The Rider's Inside Edge, discussing musical freestyles with her guest Ruth Hogan Poulsen the benefits of riding to music for both the rider and the horse. Better energy, better rhythm, less thinking, less resistance, more intention, freer movement …
Oh, right! Music!
So last night I scoured my iTunes collection for some of my favorite tunes - positive, powerful, grounded, light, earthy, driven, playful, deep, or funny. It might be the lyrics, or the beat, or something in the melody. Now I have about 6 hours of nutrition for my spirit. Like emotional vitamins. Good stuff!
From "Glorious" by MaMuse
I've got good friends
To the left of me
And good friends
To my right
Got the open sky above me
And the earth beneath my feet
Got a feeling in my heart
All in life is sweet
Oh what a day!
Sensei has announced that there will be an uchi-deshi program at our dojo, beginning in mid-summer. You can contact him for details (via the Aikido of San Diego website) if you are interested in participating.
It looks to me like a rare and valuable opportunity to train intensively, deepen one's understanding of Aikido, learn to teach, test one's own limits, and discover new possibilities, all under the guidance of a truly gifted teacher.
It also looks to me like a right of passage. Forging, like seeing combat, for a future military officer. A gateway. How one moves from casual student to serious practitioner.
Right now I'm not in a place to walk through that gateway. I don't know if I ever will be. I hope, maybe, somehow, someday... There's a little fear and frustration about that. What if I'm not able? What if it's not there? A sense of loss. And there's reminding myself that upset from thwarted intention just points to a commitment.
It's OK, though. There are cracks to peek through, high places where one can see over, and a lot of space to explore on this side of the wall. For now.
Well, this post is a bit late, I meant to have it up on Sunday, but Monday will have to do.
If you've been reading regularly, you know that I just completed my own personal sort of 16-day Aikido Intensive. I was on my own for 16 days, so free to ignore the niceties of civilized life. Like sitting down to meals. Or having conversations. I took the opportunity to do as much Aikido as possible, to see what that would be like.
It was a sort of vacation for me - not from work (there was plenty of work done), but a vacation from normal daily life. It was a personal challenge. Could I do that many classes? Could I keep myself healthy and sound? It was a trial run, and practice, for a 4-day seminar I'll be doing in January. It was a great opportunity, to do such a variety of classes, and gain so much experience in such a short time. It was a learning experience, in which I discovered a lot about myself. It was hard. And it was a tremendous amount of fun.
Committing to being in classes every evening meant leaving work an hour early every day. That meant getting in an hour early (and I am not a morning person). It meant kicking butt during the time I had available. And I did it. The work got done, and done well.
I learned that sleep, and days off to rest and reflect, are critical, as is eating well, both for physical endurance and healing, and for being able to mentally absorb what I was learning. I need time for lessons to sink in - time to think about what I've learned. ...More
A much better day today (day 13 of 16). Not great, but better. And a lot of fun, in any case. There were two classes this evening, one with Sensei, and one with one of the yudansha. I managed to do some of the techniques reasonably well, but on the whole it was one of those days when I can't tell front from back, in from out, or left from right. I got a few techniques inside out, upside down, or just plain screwy. Back falls weren't happening so well, and I don't know why. Sigh...
On the positive side, I was happier with my front rolls tonight. A little rounder, a little quieter. We did a short jiyuwaza in the second class, which was fun, and I did much better than I have done recently. And kokyu dosa really seemed to come together at the end of the second class. A nice way to end the evening.
Tomorrow night is a weapons class, with Sensei. I've only done one with him before - the first weapons class I ever did (I found myself in it by accident) - so I'm really looking forward to tomorrow's class.
One of the woes of having the privilege to train under a teacher with an unflinching commitment to his students growth as Aikidoists is that the feedback sometimes stings.
Last night, in spite of my intention to go to class tonight, I stayed up to the wee hours to watch a meteor shower. That was stupid. Tonight, not having had enough sleep, I went to class anyway. That was arrogant and selfish.
I actually felt pretty good, and thought I was doing well for most of the class. But particularly toward the end my rolls got sloppy, and I wasn't really focused. And I failed to notice that.
Sensei, being a perceptive and experienced teacher, noticed. He stopped class early, with a few words about how injuries are more likely when people are too tired to roll correctly, and how he doesn't like injuries happening at his dojo.
Thank you, Sensei. It won't happen again. My apologies to you and to my training partners.
In the words of Mark Rashid, horse trainer and aikidoka, "now I know how not to do it."
I sure didn't get everything perfect today, but I did a lot better. 5-1/2 hours of sleep instead of 4, and actual meals (big, hearty salads), meant more energy. Last night's bath, plus a few sessions with ice packs, had everything feeling better today. More water, less coffee, more focused.
Not perfect... Still not enough sleep. I didn't eat or drink enough this afternoon. Having a good dinner now, with ice packs scattered about as needed, and heading for bed ASAP. I'm glad I seem to be able to get things going in the right direction, instead of getting more sore, and more tired.
Tonight (day 6 of 16) there were two classes, so I did them both - 2 hours, total. It's the first time I've trained on a Wednesday, because I usually have another commitment in the evening. So these classes were new ones for me.
The first class (open to all students) was the biggest class I've done, aside from the Nadeau seminar in July. The second class is "only" open to 6 kyu and above. (I'm 6th kyu - that's the level where you've proven some very basic competence at simple things - graduated from kindergarten, essentially.) There really is no set pattern to how classes are run, aside from warm-ups, but this week in particular, with a variety of yudansha teaching while Sensei is on vacation, they are even more variable. It's great to hear things explained in different ways, do new exercises and techniques, and experience a little different temperament to each class.
Before I got horses, I got chickens as "practice livestock," to see if I was up for the whole feeding-and-cleaning-every-day-and-night thing. I made some mistakes, and learned a lot. After a year, and still enthusiastic, I tore out trees, got the yard graded, put in a barn and fencing, and dove into horse ownership better prepared for having had that experience with the chickens.
In addition to being fun and worthwhile on its own merits, this two-week period of training at every opportunity (now at only day 5 of 16) serves a similar purpose. This time it's to help me be more prepared for the Aikido Bridge seminar in January. And true to form I've made some mistakes and am learning a lot. A few lessons so far:
Do not take on any other projects. Like grocery shopping, laundry, or cooking food. Get that stuff out of the way well beforehand.
Do not make commitments that keep you up into the wee hours. Aikido on 4 hours' sleep and 10 cups of coffee is way less fun that you might imagine.
Get plenty of sleep for at least the week before. Going into a more-intense-than-usual training period coming off a week of sleep deprivation is stupid.
Don't plan anything at all in the evenings. Feed the critters, take a hot bath, go to bed with ice packs on anything ouchy.
Eat as well as possible. Living on snacks (healthy ones though they may be) is not a good strategy for having lots of energy and endurance.
Warm up and stretch in the mornings. Being tight and achy before class us
Thanks to a happy fluke in my calendar, my next two weeks will be my own personal Aikido Intensive. It means being at work an hour early (and I am not a morning person). I'll have to kick butt on caring for Rainy and the donkeys, and on doing my strengthening exercises in the mornings and evenings. But I know it will be well worth it. It's also going to be a particularly intense time at work, with some long hours, so Aikido will be a good re-centering time each day. And that's all my days will be - sleep, chores, exercises, work, Aikido, critters, work, sleep.
It starts this Saturday with an Aikido class, watching exams, & dojo party (and making a salad Friday night). There will be Sumo suits! Naturally I'll try to get a cool photo or video to post.
Next week I plan to train Tuesday through Saturday. Sensei will be away, so the classes will be taught by several of the yudansha. I've trained with most of them before, and am looking forward to experiencing their whole spectrum of approaches to Aikido and teaching throughout the week. There's only one I have not had the opportunity to work with yet, but have been wanting to. I think he's teaching two of the classes. Woohoo!
The following week Sensei is back, so the week will have an entirely different awesome quality to it. I plan to train Monday through Saturday that week.
I hope I can do that much! I'm really excited about seeing how near-daily training is different from the sporadic 2 or 3 days a week I've be
This has been an intense couple of weeks. I've been at the dojo more often, have a mentor for my 6 kyu test, and I've been turned loose by my personal trainer with a set of core and shoulder exercises to do for the next few months. I'll be doing a weekend retreat in the mountains with the dojo in September - mostly weapons - and am really looking forward to that.
Through it all, I am determined to not only not neglect the other aspects of my life (home, critters, & work), but to do my best to complete projects, catch up on chores, and spend time with the beasties. It wouldn't be budo, you know, to let the rest of life fall apart. So far, so good.
I trained on Friday and Saturday, and then did a seminar on Sunday. The seminar was incredible. Not only was it plain fun and engaging, but it was the kind of experience that opens a crack in one's way of being, letting light shine on many things not directly addressed during those two hours. It's still sinking in, and will be for a long time. It's hard to put into words. I tend to think in images, and the image for this one is of hands lifting a little fish out of a tide pool and releasing it into the sea.
I'll be training 3 days a week for a couple of weeks (a lot for me), and working with my mentor after each class. I need to be spending a lot more time on the elliptical trainer, too, and remembering to breathe during jiyuwaza. I get way too winded.
I got called up for a demo for the first time today (figures it would