Aikido is a path (Do) that is truly transformational in nature. Learning how to connect with others, particularly in times of conflict, so that you do not engage in a fight, cannot help but change who you are as a person (which changes how you view and interact with the world around you). We learn to genuinely listen to ourselves and listen to those around us so that we know how to stay connected with others in a way that breaks down barriers, prevents or stops conflicts, builds new relationships and strengthen existing relationships. We find ourselves becoming more understanding of others and more aware of the violence in the world around us. Hopefully, this study is like a ripple in a pond. As we become more centered and peaceful people, we impact those around us and help to make our world a better world to live in.
Aikido is not the only path towards helping to heal a planet that is “ill” with ignorance, intolerance, violence and a host of other evils. I would like to share with you another path. This path is a very, very special path that my family has had the fortune of experiencing for some time now. I have had the fortune of being allowed to share the path of Aikido with this other path for several magical days during the summer for the last couple of years. I will call this path “Windsor Mountain Do.” This path was created by Richard Herman in 1961 as an experiment in international experiential learning for children in the form of a camp. This experiment has grown into a truly wonderful place that is now under the caring leadership of Richard’s daughter, Sarah Herman. This place of wonderment is called Windsor Mountain International Summer Camp. Please take a moment and look at their website before reading further: http://www.windsormountain.org/
Windsor Mountain brings together a dedicated group of men and women from all over the world to serve as counselors and staff to a group of campers from all over the world, from different cultures and economic strata. The children are empowered to become caring, empathic citizens of the world. The staff achieves this task by taking ordinary activities and turning them into the most creative, imaginative adventures that utilize the input of campers to make those activities come alive. This camp allows people to truly understand that we all are of the same flesh and blood despite differences in looks, cultures, language, gender, ….. The children and the staff develop life-long friendships that bridge differences that others might view as barriers. Campers grow up to become counselors, who grow up to become parents of campers…. creating a growing ripple of empathy, caring, understanding in a world that desperately needs such things.
I have gone to this camp for the last four years to spend several days sharing the peaceful path that is Aikido with the campers and staff. They have openly shared their peaceful path with me. I returned from that camp experience last night renewed again. It never ceases to amaze me how powerful an experience that this camp can be. I see the next several generations of world citizens and I am left more hopeful about the world that my children and grandchild will live in. I have developed very special friendships with the campers, counselors and staff. They have become true, life-long friends and inspirations for me to do more to live up the the ideals that are embodied in Aikido and in the philosophy at Windsor Mountain International Summer Camp.
This week, I would hope that we all can look at Aikido and Windsor Mountain Do as more as more than just a martial art and a summer camp. I hope that we all can look at using our time together in Aikido training (if that is what you do) to make a real difference at becoming better world citizens. I also hope that people who would like their own children, grandchildren,…. to experience a magical transformational summer experience in becoming more better caring world citizens, consider sending children to this camp (while having the most fun anyone can imagine having!). If not, then please consider contributing to their educational fund that helps children from disadvantaged situations to be allowed to benefit from one of the best gifts that I can think of to give to a child.
To the staff and children of this camp, THANK YOU! The gift of the time that you have spent with me has a value beyond my words and deeply touches my heart. To my Aikido students and other people reading this blog, I hope that you can look inside yourselves and seek to take what you do in your lives and use it in a manner that enacts ideals that helps to heal our world. There are many paths (Do) in which this can happen. All that is required is a dose of caring, understanding and love. I am glad that I have the opportunity to share these two paths with you: 1) Aikido at Aikido Arts of Shin-Budo Kai and 2) Windsor Mountain International Summer Camp in Windsor, New Hampshire.
Marc Abrams Sensei