Dojo: Senshin Center
Location: Dojo Address: 193 Turnpike Rd. Santa Barbara, CA.
Join Date: Feb 2002
Re: Eat Your Veggies
Thank you for the great replies. I feel you all have made some very valid points.
I would however like to address the notion of “getting our children to hate something,” etc.
Sharing from my experience, I feel that this is not just a children’s issue. I believe this to be very relevant to our own training as well. Here’s how:
There are at least two viewpoints to look at this issue from – in my opinion. First, there is the notion that many of you have touched upon here and that was touched upon in the column. This is the notion that there is many things we “make” our children do, regardless of their protests to the contrary. I feel we may have to return to this issue repeatedly if we do not note here that we all do this as parents and that we all do this in regards to what is best for our children. We do this for ourselves as well. Only when we practice this as adults we call it will power or discipline – we speak of things like commitment, etc. When we practice it with our children we label it something like “wisdom” or “life experience,” etc. I am re-raising this point because while it may be vogue in some circles to not force anything – especially upon ourselves – there is indeed a common sense and a common practice that does allow for this “forcing” under certain types of conditions, especially those that are relevant to wisdom. In other words, it is not inalienably wrong whenever we do not follow a child’s protests to the contrary and/or whenever we veer away from our whims or desires.
Second, there is this notion of “liking” and “not liking” Aikido. This notion has to be approached from two aspects. First, we have to decide whether the unsaid alternative is actually a realistic possibility before we offer the dichotomy in any kind of legitimate way. In other words, is it true that we can or could train in Aikido while liking it the whole time we are training? Liking everything about it? Etc. In my experience, this simply is not possible. In fact, for me, most of Aikido spirituality, which cannot, for me, be separated from its technical aspects, revolves around what could be called negative or purifying experiences. That is to say, for example, to develop the virtue of humility, we are going to have our notion of pride and our attachment to pride “challenged.” This is never going to be the kind of experience where any “normal” person is going to say, “Gee, I liked that! That was right up there with Disneyland.” Additionally, again for example, to cultivate wisdom, we are going to have to have our propensity for ignorance exposed, as we have our attachment to ignorance exposed. Again, this is far from pleasurable, far from being the kind of thing anyone would take a liking to.
For the uncultivated self, whether we are adult or child, what is “liked” is often that which fits nicely into our own self-delusions and our own self-attachments. As a result, we can often like things that are not at all good for us, as we will often find “disagreement” with those things that are good for us. This happens because as part of the human condition – which is pretty much internalized from around 3 or 4 years old (with it just becoming more embedded over the decades) – our self-delusions and self-attachments are thoroughly fueled by our own pride, our own fears, and our own ignorance. Anything that keeps this all in place is more often than not “liked,” and anything that attempts to reconcile these things is “not liked.” Thus, if Aikido training is truly practiced as a process of self-transformation, it will not only have to function at this level, it will thereby have to be disliked (at some point). To say this in positive terms: We are going to need a lot of discipline to see the training through, being less and less reliant on preferences and fancies as motivations for continuing our training.
I do understand that it is much more difficult to get a child into the car and off to the dojo when they are kicking and screaming about how badly they hate Aikido. However, this does not mean, for me, based upon my experience, that anyone can train in Aikido without having great moments of the same exact reaction to it. As such, hating Aikido is part of the training. It is not a reason to stop training. It is the sign that training has actually reached depth. Of course, there are a million ways for dealing with this depth being reached, and whether it is in regards to our children or ourselves, I’m not advocating a continuation of abuse (or self-abuse) to get our children or ourselves into the dojo. I am simply stating that always liking Aikido is not possible, and therefore we really should not be motivated away from having our children train like we have them eat their vegetables.
The second aspect is a bit more complex, but for me it is the most relevant. To like and to dislike is the way we often experience the world. This is to say, we experience life and loved ones, etc., via dualisms, oppositions, dichotomies (you pick the word), with us as the main defining element. This is how the egoic mind functions. The world, everything and everyone in it, is divided up into contrasts and these contrasts are given meaning according to our own delusions, self-identity, and self-attachment (e.g. hot is hotter than I/cold is colder than I). In the end, for me, Aikido is beyond all of this. As such, it makes little sense then to come to training attempting to have the dichotomy of like and dislike function unimpeded when in the end one is seeking to move beyond the body/mind that feels reliant upon such things.
When I tell my son, or my 7 year old daughter, that like or dislike has nothing to do with Aikido training, I’m not only suggesting that it is like eating vegetables (i.e. that we often do things we do not like because they are good for us). I am also attempting to impart the lessons of moving beyond the egoic mind and its reliance upon egocentric dichotomies for feeling good, worthy, meaningful, loved, happy, etc.
This is important because the flip side of moving beyond the egoic mind - i.e. not moving beyond the egoic mind - is an over-reliance upon positive conditions for any type of self-worth. Since life is never going to be only positive conditions, before we self-medicate, before we look to battle off anxiety and depression, or before our children do, we should try to train and/or have them train without liking or disliking Aikido. To be sure, this is never easy. However, some attempts made in this direction are always better than no attempts. In the column, I attempted to provide one strategy: no letting my son contrast Aikido to video games, for example. To the egoic mind, one thing means not the other. In a less egocentric world-experience, this does not have to be the case, and so it is not.
Hating Aikido does not mean we should stop training. Hating Aikido means we have just begun to train. Training because we like Aikido often suggests we have only assimilated the purifying technology of Budo into our own egoic tendencies – i.e. made it impotent. While there is no way to always only like Aikido, there is a way to train that is beyond like and dislike altogether. It is a way that is beyond the need for external positive conditions to make us feel at peace with our environment and ourselves. In my opinion, the sooner we start to quest for this, the better.