Matt, you're looking for a one size fits all meaning for a process that individualizes it's meaning for each practitioner. The meaning of Aikido grows and changes with time. At the point you are at in your practice it sounds like you need Aikido to be defined in absolute terms that you can rely on to be invariant; to provide a firm footing upon which you can build your knowledge.
I think that this is very common among Aikido students. I know that it was for me. Anyway, find what works for you and run with it. The expanded meaning of Aikido reveals itself over time according to the needs of the student.
What works for me is not enough. I need to be able to say it to someone else and be reasonably sure that they have an idea of what I'm talking about. Otherwise it's just a meaningless string of syllables.
Let me make an analogy here to another word with a highly disputed definition. C.S. Lewis got a lot of flack from some readers over his use of the word Christian
. They thought it was very presumptuous of him to think he could decide what a Christian really is, and believed that Christianity was something much bigger than just acceptance of a set of doctrines. He replied thus:
People ask: 'Who are you, to lay down who is, and who is not a Christian?' or 'May not many a man who cannot believe these doctrines be far more truly a Christian, far closer to the spirit of Christ, than some who do?' Now this objection is in one sense very right, very charitable, very spiritual, very sensitive. It has every available quality except that of being useful. We simply cannot, without disaster, use language as these objectors want us to use it.
Now if once we allow people to start spiritualizing and refining, or as they might say ‘deepening,' the sense of the word Christian, it will... speedily become a useless word. In the first place, Christians themselves will never be able to apply it to anyone. It is not for us to say who, in the deepest sense, is or is not close to the spirit of Christ. We do not see into men's hearts. We cannot judge, and are indeed forbidden to judge. It would be wicked arrogance for us to say that any man is, or is not, a Christian in this refined sense. And obviously a word which we can never apply is not going to be a very useful word.
You are right that I am inexperienced, and that I have no authority to tell anyone what the true meaning of aikido is in the deepest sense. But I'm merely talking about the word
here. If everyone used the word the way you suggest, the word would cease to mean anything at all.