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Reading another blog I was drawn to this idea of The Lost Student...
If I had to describe my intentions in this world in one word it would be "student." It's been one of the most central concepts attached to my personal identity...and I'm proud of this fact. Growing up I felt it was ok to be ignorant or lacking somehow as long as I was working on it; as long as I was studying how to be better. In many ways it became my safe-haven whenever I felt less-than-adequate.
I feel it's been both a blessing and a curse for me though. A curse because at times it's allowed too much of a sense of slack. I didn't have to hit the mark, "because I was trying." There are other factors involved in this too. I have a strong perfectionist streak in me and, recognizing that, I've been afraid at times to give it too much reign over how I respond to things, making me at times a little too stoic.
That said, at one point I lost my life's ambition...gave it up, really. I went from having a drive about which to organize all my actions, to no clear motivation. I began to live more and more moment to moment and my motto became, "the unaimed arrow never misses." I still identified myself as a "student of/for life," but I was no longer organized and the more I slipped into this mode of thought, the more inconsistant I became overall. Part of the reason for this was as a defense-mechanism for my growing depression...and it was definately a circular dynamic since part of the reason I became depressed,
Lately I've come to the conclusion that I've been confusing with
I started my before I ever found Aikido, but because Aikido was such a nice fit I began to blur the lines I think. Aikido became the title of my "way," despite less and less physical training, until anything which seemed to loosely fit was simply called Aikido.
It's interesting that as my "way" has lately been clarifying, I'm looking at Aikido in a renewed light. Gradually, as my sense of this coalesces, I feel greater momentum and drive toward my study of Aikido develop as well. I've never stopped thinking about Aikido. That has been my one constant connection to the art, but I find my thoughts taking a subtle shift into something slightly more concrete...something more urgent. Recently I took my Jo which has long been darkened by the oily sweat of my hands and lightly sanded it. The accumulated gunk quickly rendered the sandpaper useless and I had to get another piece. I thought of the Shinto concept of tsumi, which is also said to be cumulative, and I smiled as I gently removed the old layers of grime I had allowed to collect.
The job isn't done. An interesting polkadot pattern has formed from the many many hits it took, and while I rather like the look of it, I plan on finishing the job.
All that's left is to do it.
From Beginner Mind but unaware
I'm finding the time to see it there.
To iron flat the page of mind;
of shadowed lines;
where some may find an open space
and then may see a form to trace
it's off to there a bit more wholly
off to recognize and to know thee:
to've refined, re-find and refined
my beginner's mind.
When I was a younger lad I went through a phase where I was surprisingly disciplined. For certain reasons, later I would actually work on flying by the seat of my pants instead. Suffice it to say I'm now working on swinging that pendulum back in the other direction and with the birth of my child I'm finding a very helpful situation for that. No longer am I on my own schedule. Just about every 2 or 3 hours or so I get up with my wife and prepare to feed our crying baby. In addition to feeding comes the other end of that process and so there are times when I must wake up, or simply get up, and change the diaper. When the obvious needs are already met, I must find a way to soothe our baby and that is a whole art unto itself. In short, there are many demands in place where previously I was used to doing pretty much whatever floated into my head at the moment...and I love it...mostly.
It's aggravating to hear a baby scream at the top of its little lungs when you just woke up and all you want is to go back to sleep. It's harder to change diapers and warm the supplemental formula and behave in a soothing manner. It takes discipline. Of course, the love I feel for baby Benjamin provides all the motivation I need, but I'm finding that this discipline of raising a baby has seeped into other areas too. My little garden which has become a jungle of grasses and weeds, in some places 3 feet high, is now about 2/3 cleared (I'm just waiting for the yard waste bin to get picked up). I just
Lately I've been thinking of a digital music class I took in which sample rate was exaplained (e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sample_rate). I always thought this was a great analogy for human attention/retention of information. Using the analogy, meditation seems to be geared toward increasing the rate at which we're sampling any given period of time with the goal being as nearly complete a sample as possible.
I've seen case studies which implied the average person is not very attentive to the particulars of a given situation, particularly when they've already got a task in mind to distract from them. The most notable being a study in which students enrolling for college were directed to go to a room, get a form and proceed to the next location directed. The student would arrive at the room, request the form, and the person behind the counter would duck down out of sight "to get the form," but a completely different person would stand up and hand the form over. As I recall, the percentage who noticed the completely different person was staggeringly low...about 10% I'm guessing. Even at 30%, which I'm sure is well above the study's measurement, this apparent fact is somewhat disturbing considering most people, when asked, seem to think they're pretty aware of their surroundings.
I'm writting about this because in my opinion, the issue of attention and sample rate plays into everything we do and that it is for this ability to get a relatively "full" sample that we train
So essentially I began training in Aikido from a desire to learn physical self-defense maneuvers (osae waza, etc.) and to learn something about inner peace. I knew only what many of us read everywhere about Aikido being a "way of peace;" a "way of harmonizing with hostile forces." Word! I'm down with that! I spent my whole life a pacifist among fighters, so I had a pre-existing and deep appreciation for the power a warrior has in creating peace. The language was right up my alley. I studied very hard for about 2 and a half years, and after 10 years of sporadic interaction on the mat, I'd estimate I have about 1 year's worth of solid training, conditioning aside.
Now, I practice something every day, but there is no substitute for the kind of dedication which puts people on the mat with each other. One of the first things I came to love about Aikido was that I got to train with everyone. Each fellow student has a unique contribution to the development of one another, and while that sounds like a lovely bit of poetry, I think it has a profound bit of logic to it as well. The biggest obstacle to learning is not seeing the lesson and when we begin to see everyone as a potential lesson (i.e. teacher role), we begin to allow for much greater potential in learning. That's the danger of ego: presumption...or so I presume.
The community facet of Aikido has come to represent the essence of the whole for me. We humans are as comfortable as we generally are because we have a societ
My first experiences with any form of martial arts came in my childhood. For one thing I was the smallest kid of my grade throughout elementary school, and for another, the people I grew up with always seemed interested in being tough. I found that my friends, who were about a foot taller and twice my weight in some cases, could always beat me in contests of strength. The best I could do against them was to outsmart them or somehow stall out thier efforts to overpower me. Given that WWF and Hulkamania were in full effect, I took ukemi for many a pile-driver, body slam and even the occasional suplex. I remember specific moments where I was forced to learn how to not get hurt...and indeed I was lucky I didn't. I landed on many pine cones and exposed roots and rocks.
As I said, the culture of my area was heavily based on toughness. The golden era of Gangsta Rap began with the popularity of NWA, Eazy E, etc. so you can see why many of my generation might have gravitated toward thuggish behavior. I've known enough criminals to have a relatively competent understanding of various forms of crime and from what I can tell assault is a highly unreported crime that should be taken seriously.
So, my lessons in how to engage people bigger than me, coupled with my lessons from a violent componant of our society instilled in me a sense of need for self-defense as well as a basic direction to move in. In high school I decided I would learn a martial art so I began reading about various