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Every few months Sensei offers "Aikido In Focus" workshops. These are a series of "concise topical training clinics for accelerating both your Aikido and personal development." They are usually about 2 hours long, on a Sunday morning. I've participated in every one since I started training, and they've been a huge contribution to my growth.
I have enjoyed them all, and have gotten immediate, useful feedback that has helped me improve my technique, or made me more aware of some aspect of Aikido I can be working with in daily training. But that's not why I go, and that's the least of the benefit.
Each one creates another small crack that lets new light in. It always takes me a while to figure out what that new light is revealing, but I know right away that it's there. This time I've been sitting with it for almost a year, and I'm only just starting to make out the forms and patterns I'm seeing.
Back in May of last year (wow… has it really been that long?), in one of these workshops, we danced with the energy, exploring the elements in our Aikido, joining with the rhythm of the music. Getting out of our minds and letting emotion and body find expression through this different way of accessing what we already knew.
But the thing that mattered, the thing that stuck with me, and the thing that's been gnawing at me since that day, was one split second at the very beginning. Sensei was introducing us to what the workshop would involve, and what we were there to explore.
I don't remember the exact way he put it… If it was meant to really grab our attention, it was not overtly presented as such. Just an inconspicuous sentence among a few introductory thoughts, before we really got started.
"What if you could freely express who you really are?"
Something in that question, that instant, touched me deeply. I was surprised to find that for a moment I was blinking back tears. What if I could express who I really am? Really.
I didn't know that I wasn't. Haven't I been having fun? Enjoying my training, doing interesting work, spending time with friends, and starting creative new gardening projects? But there was that feeling, the flicker of pain, the tightening of the throat, the knot in the gut. Just a flash. I noticed it, and set it aside to examine later.
The rest of the workshop was a blast. Joyful, expressive, playful. I had a great time, and discovered new ways to flow and move with and around conflict. But I kept thinking back on that flash of sadness. What was that about? Where had it come from. What was it trying to tell me?
For a long time after the workshop, I noticed something, but it was elusive. Malaise? Discontent? I found myself really struggling to get engaged with projects. Dreading sitting still. Resenting the dullness of repetitive tasks. Impatient. Wanting to write, feeling the urge to write, but with no thoughts coming up. Nothing there. Or more likely something there, but something well-hidden. Something suppressed. Something pushed away.
The workshop was titled "Aikido, Expressed" and was about "Breaking limiting patterns, and cultivating authenticity in your expression of Aikido." For me it set me in motion in the direction of breaking limiting patterns and cultivating authenticity in my life. I'm not sure where it might take me, but I'm enjoying exploring the trail.