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01-22-2009, 10:48 AM
Breathe in and things change
Breathe out and things change
"Changes, changes, changes"

Several years ago an Aikido Sensei* told me a story about his Zen master. When the old man was on his death bed, the Shanga (community) gathered to ask what would become of them. The old man, smiled, laughed, and simply said, "Changes, changes, changes."

As a Buddhist we contemplate the impermanence of existence. Suffering comes from ignorance and attachment. We become identified and attached because we believe (in ignorance) that all the events in this fleeting life are stable and permanent. By accepting that things change, it is easier to let go of one event or moment and move onto another.

Alan Watts, one of the first philosophers to bring Buddhism to the United States, wrote a book call The Wisdom of Insecurity. In it he states that most of us feel insecure because we think the world is constant and stable, permanent. Yet, we all know that the only constant in life is change. Our mental map does not match reality. Therefore, there is wisdom to our feeling insecure. Once we accept that things change and that we will feel insecure, the mental map now matches reality, and we actually don't feel so insecure. We are no longer identified and attached to our own internal fantasies about ourselves, others, and life. We are open to accept what is, what was, and what will be.

In an old Zen story, a farmer's horse runs away. The villagers say this is unfortunate. The farmer simply says, "We will see." The horse returns with others following. The villagers say this is fortunate. The farmer simply says, "We will see." While plowing the field with one of the horses, the farmer's son breaks his leg. The villagers say this is unfortunate. The farmer simply says, "We will see." The next day, the army arrives and takes all the young men able to serve, but cannot take the son with the broken leg. The villagers say this is fortunate. The farmer simply says, "We will see."

I love Aikido. One of the things I love about it is that it is constantly changing. It's a dynamic art, its in motion, it changes the way you move and more importantly it changes the way you think. When I first started I would get very frustrated with my Sensei** because it appeared every time he did a technique it was different from the last time he did it. I was looking for the one right way to do it. He would only smile. I later learned that the energy was different each time and so the technique was different. Having nothing to hide, my Sensei encouraged me to train with other instructors from other styles and affiliation. They did the same techniques, but differently. As I progressed, I saw more that was hidden in plain sight. I wasthe one who had to find it, steal it, because for it to be mine, it can never be given to me. In every moment, in every movement, in every day, things changed. If I can only stay open and accept the changes, my technique and life gets better. If I rigidly hold on to anything, I lose it.

Every New Year, I take my inventory of the year past. I write down all the major events that are now past. The ones I label positive are the ones that happened the way I wanted them to, or better. The ones I label negative (you guessed it) didn't happen the way I wanted them to. As if everything that is good and right is about what I want and everything negative and wrong isn't. As if it's all about me. I almost wished I still had the ego strength (or weakness) to still think it's all about me. We tend to hide behind these beliefs of power and control because we cannot accept the impermanence and our helplessness in life. We will invent reasons for anything we don't understand in an effort to accept them and feel as though we have some power and control over what is happening. As I look at the past year, what strikes me most is that it is past; there is nothing I can do about it now. There is nothing unfinished needing closure. It's finished and closed whether I like the way the story ended or not. The only choice I actually was how I responded (not reacted) to these changes in my life. And there were a lot. There always are. There always will be. And that's what is.

I also look forward to the New Year. I also make a list of what I would like to see happen and who I want to be. Actually, it's mostly about who I want to be because I have very little power and control over what will happen. I tend towards positive decisions, directions, and discipline. No matter what happens this coming year I want to be a loving compassionate man to my family and friends; a professional who refuses to compromise his professional ethics, client advocacy, and clinical efficacy; and to continue training. Perhaps we will share some mat space and time. Perhaps not. If we do, let's enjoy the brief time we will have together. If not, let's enjoy training with the people we do.

When we connect the dots and look at the big picture of our life (past, present, and future), are we moving in a positive direction? If we are, continue forward. If not, let's re-decide our direction and discipline.

To a new moment, a new day, and a new year.
Breathe in and things change
Breathe out and things change
"Changes, changes, changes"

Thanks for listening, for the opportunity to be of service, and for sharing the journey. Now get back to training. KWATZ!

* My deepest compliments, appreciation, and respect to Sensei McGourik of Aikido-Ai in Whittier, California.

** Sensei Dang Thong Phong, founder of Tenshinkai Aikido and the Westminster Aikikai in California.Lynn Seiser (b. 1950 Pontiac, Michigan), Ph.D. has been a perpetual student of martial arts, CQC/H2H, FMA/JKD, and other fighting systems for 40 years. He currently holds the rank of Sandan (3rd degree Black Belt) in Tenshinkai Aikido under Sensei Dang Thong Phong at the Westminster Aikikai Dojo in Southern California. He is the co-author, with Phong Sensei, of Aikido Basics (2003), Advanced Aikido (2006), and Aikido Weapons Techniques (2006) for Tuttle Publishing. His martial art articles have appeared in Black Belt Magazine, Aikido Today Magazine, and Martial Arts and Combat Sports Magazine. He is the founder of Aiki-Solutions and IdentityTherapy and is an internationally respected psychotherapist in the clinical treatment of offenders and victims of violence, trauma, abuse, and addiction. He currently lives in Marietta, GA and trains at Roswell Budokan.

Susanne Serwotka
01-31-2009, 09:27 PM
Thank you for your sharing your always inspiring thoughts. Getting you as an instructor and sensei was a good change. I am now always looking forward to our morning training and enjoy every minute in your class.
Thanks for giving it a new direction., and taking up a another responsibility for us.
Can't wait to get back on the mat!


02-01-2009, 09:02 AM

Thanks for your kind words and welcoming me into the dojo. Its was a hard change (our biggest concern in relocating was if I would find a place to train).

I have enjoyed training with you and everyone at Roswell Budokan. I am humbled by the openness and acceptance there. Its a great compliment to Sensei Paul and everyone there.

Susanne Serwotka
02-01-2009, 02:12 PM
His training is awesome, too and so is Mike's...you are making me aware of how privileged we are to have all this different instructors at Budokan and benefit from their individual approaches to aikido. Thanks.

02-02-2009, 08:01 AM
Agreed Susanne.

Kyushinkan Dojo/Roswell Budokan is a great environment for the synergy of seeing/experiencing training from many different perspective. We all benefit from that.

I am learning so much by trying to share. Thanks for the patience. Deepest appreciation.