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[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
Yesterday was my 50th birthday. For those who I haven't already bored with this story in person, here y' go:
When I turned 48 I hadn't been training all that long, wasn't in great shape, and my ukemi was way less efficient. We don't often do birthday rolls (mostly because people are out doing other things on their birthdays, I think), so I was kind of surprised, and really tickled when at the end of class Sensei called me up. He said "We have a birthday today. Linda Eskin is turning 18!" And I thought "Why you patronizing so-and-so [edited for civility], not expecting as much of me as of other students... Rrrr..." And then he threw me 18 times, and it about half killed me. LOL I saw, and appreciated, the wisdom in what he'd done, bless his heart.
But then afterword he said "And next year she'll be turning 17!" And I thought, "Why you... No way. That's just not cool." It sure as hell wasn't in my plans to get weaker and less capable over time. But I knew in one year, which goes by pretty quickly, I probably wouldn't be able to do 49, so right then and there I made it my goal, and told him so, that I would be able to do 50 rolls on my 50th birthday (which was on a class day - yes, I checked, two years ago).
I've kept that goal in mind this whole time, working on getting the effortful spots out of my rolls as best I can, training for endurance, and taking really good care of myself (icing injuries, doing my PT exercises, etc.). With my birthday fast approaching I did so
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
I've been applying Aikido off the mat lately, in a big way. Feeling what's actually happening, instead of imposing my interpretations or expectations. Blending with circumstances instead of fighting them. Seeing things from others' points of view - and seeing others as cooperative partners, not in opposition. Keeping my center and integrity, speaking clearly and directly. Finding a resolution that leaves everyone in a better place. I'd be kind of impressed with myself for being so clever, except that it's simply an effect of my Aikido training that I can't not-do these things. Oh, I did plenty of resisting and fumbling around first, but ultimately the Aikido came through.
I'll start with right now. So far this weekend has been absolutely wonderful. I am starting to decompress and breathe lately, and am getting caught up a little at a time.
Yesterday (Friday) afternoon I got checked for new glasses, which I need for an upcoming trip; my eyes aren't happy about contacts lately. Then I had a couple of hours before going to dinner with family visiting from out of town, so I was able to putter in the yard, watering the native plants I put in months ago. Dinner was relaxed, and we all sat and talked and enjoyed each others' company. Afterward, Michael and I went for a walk along the beach boardwalk at Coronado. Before bed I did some planning for upcoming projects I'm excited about getting started.
This morning I did a bit of writing on an idea that came to me while drivin
Dang, I am really behind on posting. I read a quote recently that suggested one should meditate for 20 minutes a day, and if too busy for that, then meditate for an hour a day. It's a really good point. Pausing is in order.
For horsepeople, perhaps think of meditation as a half-halt in the forward motion of life, a momentary slowing to regroup. Get your feet under you, collect, and then continue in a more organized, empowered way.
I have been just too busy. Mostly with work, and then with trying to get caught up from having been too busy with work. Things are slowing down now, and I've got a little breathing room.
More important, thanks to support from my darling hubby, and a willingness to be creative with working arrangements on the part of my employer, I am on course for creating a more balanced life in the long term.
Getting myself into a better daily rhythm is important. Sitting for hours on end is terrible for anyone's health, and particularly injurious to mine, I think. It really aggravates my peripheral neuropathy, so by the end of 8 or 9 hours everything hurts. It's a miserable experience, on all levels. Being able to be active for more of the day is something I'm moving toward at every opportunity. And getting enough sleep. That one's a challenge.
My goal is to have time and flexibility to pursue writing more consistently, to focus more deeply on my Aikido training, and get a hundred (+/-) projects done, or heck, started - house maintenance, yard im
For 5 days, starting bright and early this Thursday morning (May 17th, 2012), I will be off on an Aikido road trip. I'll be driving to northern California and back for the "O Sensei Revisited" workshop, at a lovely little camp/retreat center. You're invited to come along. You don't even need to pack, just get in the car!
Here's the description from the flyer: "The inner work of O Sensei should not be lost. Nadeau Sensei believes that it is critical to preserve this face of Aikido and to experience the O Sensei process of development. Through direct practice as well as techniques, weapons work, and discussions, we will highlight this aspect of O Sensei."
I'm planning on posting all along the way, time and internet access permitting.
Please note that I will not be posting here. Instead, please go to www.grabmywrist.com to follow along. Why? Several reasons: There will be a lot more posts than usual, possibly several each day, a lot of it won't be about Aikido, and I'll be mostly posting from my phone. It will be a bit of a mess. When I get back I'll write up a proper post here.
If all goes as I hope, there will be a class with Saotome Sensei on the way up, visits with a few friends, and an annular solar eclipse on the way back. The scenery should be amazing. I'm expecting the workshop itself to be an intense one, with five brilliant instructors over three long days. A dozen people are going from our dojo
Today, May 5, 2012, it's three years since I first stepped onto the mat.
I had a post half written, about dates and seminars and exams, but wasn't feeling it. Those things aren't important. Instead, it's the tiny things that have made this year exquisite. Warm smiles, sharp corrections, chats over meals, and everyone growing and becoming more confident together - these are the things that continually open my mind and touch my heart. Little "aha!" moments, meditating on big questions, feeling and finding connection, and remembering how to let go and play. Laughter, joy, and vigorous jiyuwazas, jumping up to take ukemi as often as I can, and sinking into seiza to bow out at the end of class, breathless and elated.
How fortunate I am, to have this opportunity and ability to train, this insightful and inspiring teacher, and this loving and compassionate community, in our dojo and in the world! I am grateful beyond words.
It's pretty amazing how circumstances can get overwhelming sometimes. Take a 95% busy schedule, add 10%, and like a road at more than its capacity, things come to a grinding halt. Long hours working, weather that for months seemed hell-bent on raining during daylight hours every weekend, even a few fun events and projects... These things and others conspired to put me into to-do list overload, and off-the-chart stress for much of the beginning of the year.
I tried applying my limited skills in randori - dealing with multiple attackers - but it felt like doing randori in the middle of the freeway. I was at the end of all my ropes, and needed to make a change. I renegotiated some deadlines, completed a few projects, dropped some commitments, and thankfully the weather has been cooperating. All the long overdue chores I'd been putting on the back burner, waiting for "when I'd have some time" are finally getting done. I got my oil changed, got new tires, and registered my car. I gave the donkeys their Spring baths, and got their former farrier out to correct a botched trim that left Clementine lame for weeks. I finally followed up with my PT about a hip injury from months ago, and got the all-clear on that. And I've done just enough yardwork that you can now see the California natives I planted in the Fall; they've been thriving on all the rain we've gotten. There's still plenty left to do, but the critical things are under control now.
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
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. ...More