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Old 09-29-2012, 12:48 AM   #1
Andrew Macdonald
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spirtuality in the dojo

ok this is kind of a general question

how much spirituality do you see in your dojo? do you try to find it just thorugh the techniques or is there focused mediatation practice.

did you join aikido for spirtual practice? if not are you interested in it now?
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Old 09-29-2012, 03:53 AM   #2
Pauliina Lievonen
 
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Re: spirtuality in the dojo

As a non-native English speaker, the word "spiritual" continues to puzzle me, as I don't have a word to translate it to in my own language (Finnish). Or rather, I have two, so I wonder which one you have in mind, or is it maybe a combination of them, or something else?

I can think of "henkinen" which roughly has to do with cultivating your mind....that usually gets to be used in connection with stuff like literature, art, music. I guess doing aikido could be said to cultivate your mind in some ways. That wouldn't so much be anything that is explicitly taught in our dojo, more something that happens if you practice a while.

Then there's "hengellinen" which is a word used in context of religion, cultivating one's soul. I'd only use that word for dojo or people who combine their aikido practice with a religion (like shinto, I think some dojo do?). Our dojo doesn't.

There are some qualities that I think doing a martial art will help develop, like tenacity, mental toughness, patience, that kind of thing. Those to me don't quite fall under either category. And again, they're not something that is explicitly taught at our dojo, more something people develop (or not) as they progress.

As to the last question - I started aikido because it looked cool, and I wanted to learn how to fall.

kvaak
Pauliina
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Old 09-29-2012, 05:33 AM   #3
Carsten M÷llering
 
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Re: spirtuality in the dojo

Quote:
Andrew Macdonald wrote: View Post
how much spirituality do you see in your dojo?
I understand "spirituality" as connected to religious practice. During discussions here on aikiweb I learned that it also can be understood in a wider, and different sense. But nonetheless I see no spiritualtiy in our d˘j˘.
It is even demanded by some of the teachers to not have it. We just want to practice aikid˘.

Quote:
... or is there focused mediatation practice.
There is no meditation practice in our d˘j˘.

Quote:
did you join aikido for spirtual practice?
No.

Quote:
if not are you interested in it now?
I have a rich spiritual practice. (And had it long before I started aikid˘.) But it is in no way connected to my aikid˘-Practice.
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Old 09-29-2012, 07:16 AM   #4
phitruong
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Re: spirtuality in the dojo

i was going to say "i see dead people!" but i'd refrain myself.

hey! this forum required 60 seconds between posts! i can't refrain myself that long! my spiritual needs cannot wait for such length of time! i need it now, damn it!

"budo is putting on cold, wet, sweat stained gi with a smile and a snarl" - your truly
http://charlotteaikikai.org
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Old 09-29-2012, 08:24 AM   #5
aikishihan
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Re: spirtuality in the dojo

All any dojo will ever require for its need for "spirituality" is to have Phi Truong as a valued member.

Spirituality is an intensely personal quality. It may be detected in a dojo or training venue, but not essential for its membership to fully enjoy training and its benefits.
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Old 09-29-2012, 08:48 AM   #6
Dave de Vos
 
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Re: spirtuality in the dojo

For me, the distinction between spirituality and religion is not entirely clear. From what I find, distinguishing between spirituality and religion seems to originate in 20th century America (for example here or here). I have no idea whether my teacher is religious himself. I know of one hindu student and one atheist and there are probably christians in our class. The teacher of my teacher is a zen abbot.

I do think that our dojo tries to instill a specific mental / emotional state where aikido seems to work better. I understand that practise like that may seem similar to some spiritual practise and that it could be percieved as promoting some specific morality. But I don't see it as something spiritual. Anyway IMO this topic touches what Carsten adressed here. I also am not aware of social, political or religious views being adressed in our aikido classes.

Does meditiation have to be spiritual? To me it seems more like mental practise.

Last edited by Dave de Vos : 09-29-2012 at 09:03 AM.
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Old 09-29-2012, 08:56 AM   #7
Diana Frese
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Re: spirtuality in the dojo

I was hoping someone would recognize Phi's great contributions to the general tone of these forums, and there in the very next post Francis put it into words. So in this thread, this topic I come up with the following: True spirituality means you have to be able to smile at least once in a while.

And I like the rest of Francis post too. And dimensions added by Paulina and Carsten's personal impressions they are kind enough to have shared on this thread.

Forgot to log out yesterday, found this thread first and still logged in so I guess spiritually speaking, I just had to post. Maybe just coincidence. I have to think about that!
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Old 09-29-2012, 09:16 AM   #8
Diana Frese
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Re: spirtuality in the dojo

Hope I'm not slowing down the thread, but I feel I should share the moment I first started teaching in our local YMCA. My dad had given me the advice: don't try to teach the philosophy, just teach the exercise. Or something like that, it was years ago.

I felt I should keep his advice in mind by going straight to the students who showed up to the first class. So dad's advice helped me be smart enough to ask them why they wanted to study Aikido.

They said they wanted to learn to be centered. Not sure if I was qualified to teach that specifically, only through the actual techniques and some related things I could pass on to them that could be related to breathing, balance, movement and centering exercises I think you could call them.... some probably call some of these practices "ki exercises" anyway anything I could remember I would pass on to them...

But their request kind of made me smile, so I had to be candid. ' Well, if the teacher is centered, it is possible that the student may not learn to be centered, and if the teacher is not centered it is still possible for the student to learn to be centered. I can't really tell you which kind of teacher I am ' (Because I don't know)

Actually, this topic is huge, I hope many others add to this thread. There is so much available in Aikido of a spiritual nature, for those who wish to learn that aspect. But not necessary, even some of O Sensei's students have said, possibly meaning that it is only necessary to practice, the rest will come naturally? You can look up their writings and interviews on the subject, I'm just mentioning it for your further research.

During meditation in your dojo, if they have it formally, say, before class, it is an opportunity to relax your mind before practice, or there may be some directions given as to the type of meditation the teachers want you to do. But there are many kinds of meditation! Like, when you are outside viewing nature or people, your mind can calm itself, you can practice compassionate thoughts, or actions, for example.

As for myself when I was teaching, I tried to share anything of what I had been taught that I thought might be helpful. Just by practicing with my students and being open minded I learned a lot just from their general, receptive attitudes. Not the least was..... their ability to ..... smile.

Last edited by Diana Frese : 09-29-2012 at 09:24 AM.
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Old 09-29-2012, 09:29 AM   #9
Diana Frese
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Re: spirtuality in the dojo

Oops, I just noticed Dave had posted while I was writing. Great post, and I will look up the links he was kind to add....
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Old 09-29-2012, 10:03 AM   #10
Dave de Vos
 
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Re: spirtuality in the dojo

Quote:
Diana Frese wrote: View Post
Oops, I just noticed Dave had posted while I was writing. Great post, and I will look up the links he was kind to add....
Thank you

This thread did make me think about how I view my own "spirituality". I'm an atheist and a real sceptic when it comes to anything supernatural. So I don't see myself as a spiritual person and I assumed that the term "spiritual" could not apply to me.
But I think there's more to it than that.
Now I think the concept of Secular Spirituality fits fairly well to describe my spirituality. I realize that this contradicts my previously stated link between religion and spirituality. I think I understand the distinction a bit better now.

But still, I think you'd have to look closely to even find "Secular Spirituality" in our dojo.
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Old 09-29-2012, 01:13 PM   #11
lbb
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Re: spirtuality in the dojo

We don't promote anything called "spirituality" in our dojo. Our sensei are not spiritual teachers or qualified to teach esoteric practices, and they don't pretend to be. We have members who follow many different spiritual traditions: various flavors of Christians, observant Jews, Muslims, a couple different flavors of Buddhists. By that I don't mean that these people are nominally members of some religious denomination; I'm thinking specifically of people who have a conscious and deliberate spiritual practice, not just those who show up at a house of worship and expect something to happen. So, as a dojo I guess you'd say that we have an established practice of pursuing spiritual paths outside the dojo.

I didn't join aikido for spiritual practice; like others in the dojo, my spiritual practice is elsewhere. I'm of the belief that if you want to get to Los Angeles, your best bet is to get on a plane or a train or a boat or a bus that's going to Los Angeles, or point your nose in that direction and start walking or bicycling or roller skating or whatever...not to head for London and hope that gene pirates cosh you on the head in Heathrow and stuff you into a suitcase that's going to Krasnoyarsk, only it gets stolen by Catalan separatists who believe that it's a shipment of uranium, and when they discover you they dump you out of a helicopter somewhere over the Mediterranean, but you're saved by dolphins who convey you to a Carnival Cruise liner that is wrecked on the reefs of Bermuda when the captain tries a close pass while showing off for his girlfriend, and you're rescued by a tramp freighter out of Hamilton harbor whose next stop just happens to be Los Angeles. I would not go to a dojo looking for something other than martial arts training, no matter how many movies I'd seen that suggests that such things could be found there.
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Old 09-29-2012, 01:14 PM   #12
lbb
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Re: spirtuality in the dojo

Quote:
Pauliina Lievonen wrote: View Post
As a non-native English speaker, the word "spiritual" continues to puzzle me, as I don't have a word to translate it to in my own language (Finnish).
Not to worry, Pauliina, most native English speakers have no idea what they mean when they use the word.
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Old 09-29-2012, 02:00 PM   #13
Marc Abrams
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Re: spirtuality in the dojo

Quote:
Francis Takahashi wrote: View Post
All any dojo will ever require for its need for "spirituality" is to have Phi Truong as a valued member.

Spirituality is an intensely personal quality. It may be detected in a dojo or training venue, but not essential for its membership to fully enjoy training and its benefits.
X2!

Spirituality is the not the exclusive domain of any religion or esoteric practice. That intense, personal experience in which there is an awe and appreciation for that moment can be expressed in any aspect of our lives. It can be experienced taking that first sip of a properly decanted, well-aged red wine (must wait until I leave my office and go home...... patience grasshopper). It can be experienced at that moment when the nage is off-balanced and you can easily crush that person and instead you choose to guide the person to the ground in a graceful manner. It can be experienced when you do a body parts check after your teacher has nuked you in a manner that has you smiling all the way to the ground. The more that I can stay in and appreciate the moment with the laughter that Phi refers to, to the awe and appreciation that I can experience, the better my day is. The more that I can have those experiences in my dojo, the richer an opportunity my dojo becomes for myself and my students.

Spirituality is never a requirement for a dojo, because spirituality is a distinctly human experience that exists in a moment in time. You do not need spirituality, but it certainly makes the journey that much more enjoyable.....

Marc Abrams
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Old 09-29-2012, 02:42 PM   #14
Dave de Vos
 
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Re: spirtuality in the dojo

Quote:
Marc Abrams wrote: View Post
X2!

Spirituality is the not the exclusive domain of any religion or esoteric practice. That intense, personal experience in which there is an awe and appreciation for that moment can be expressed in any aspect of our lives. It can be experienced taking that first sip of a properly decanted, well-aged red wine (must wait until I leave my office and go home...... patience grasshopper). It can be experienced at that moment when the nage is off-balanced and you can easily crush that person and instead you choose to guide the person to the ground in a graceful manner. It can be experienced when you do a body parts check after your teacher has nuked you in a manner that has you smiling all the way to the ground. The more that I can stay in and appreciate the moment with the laughter that Phi refers to, to the awe and appreciation that I can experience, the better my day is. The more that I can have those experiences in my dojo, the richer an opportunity my dojo becomes for myself and my students.

Spirituality is never a requirement for a dojo, because spirituality is a distinctly human experience that exists in a moment in time. You do not need spirituality, but it certainly makes the journey that much more enjoyable.....

Marc Abrams
I think this describes the "numinous".
In fact I only know that term since today
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Old 09-29-2012, 03:03 PM   #15
graham christian
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Re: spirtuality in the dojo

Quote:
Andrew Macdonald wrote: View Post
ok this is kind of a general question

how much spirituality do you see in your dojo? do you try to find it just thorugh the techniques or is there focused mediatation practice.

did you join aikido for spirtual practice? if not are you interested in it now?
100% spiritual in my Aikido. The Aikido we do is meditation, moving meditation.

I joined Aikido as a teenager looking for spiritual practice or as I put it then "that chi thing to do with harmony"

Peace.G.
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Old 09-29-2012, 09:30 PM   #16
hughrbeyer
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Re: spirtuality in the dojo

Fascinating to find out that Finnish has no single word to translate "spirituality."

I know people who are very adamant about the difference between spirituality and religion, but perhaps that difference really only matters in the context of Western monotheism. The Western idea of an omnipotent, immanent, omnipresent, yet personal God has no real analog in the Eastern context. So when Westerners start to talk about that stuff those Eastern folks do, it becomes necessary to come up with a new term. What is it that Zen mediation practices? It's not glorification of some sky-daddy god. Yet it is working on the human self, the human spirit. So I guess it's "spiritual."

My own engagement with Aikido is very much because of its spiritual dimension, but from my point of view that dimension does not need to be explicit to be active. We train the body to train the mind, treating the body and mind as a unity--something that Zen overlooks. I could go practice karate, and I'm sure there are high-level karate teachers who talk about spiritual dimensions of karate in similar ways--but karate does not train my body, hence my mind, in ways that I find enriching. Ditto boxing, the "noble science" to some--I do not want to spend much time training my mind to adopt the attitude boxing teaches.

But because Aikido teaches the spirit through the body, spiritual teaching does not need to be explicit in Aikido. In fact, few of my teaches have spent much time at all on the mat discussing spiritual issues. Which is just fine with me. When I'm on the mat, I want to train.

Evolution doesn't prove God doesn't exist, any more than hammers prove carpenters don't exist.
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Old 09-30-2012, 04:33 AM   #17
aiki-jujutsuka
 
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Re: spirtuality in the dojo

I want to echo what others have said about spirituality being a subjective thing. My instructors never speak of spirituality within the dojo or when we are training. Technique and application are the priority. I think this is in the line with the Dentokan mission statement as if they began teaching 'eastern' philosophy or spirituality they could alienate others who do not agree with such beliefs.

The Dentokan mission statement is as follows:

"To preserve and teach the traditional martial arts of Japan (including Okinawa). We strive to accomplish this in an environment free of intimidation, politics, and other distracters. We further seek to foster a spirit of fellowship and understanding, welcoming all like-minded individuals, regardless of race, gender, ethnic background, religion, national origin, or physical handicap."

The dojo is a place where people from all walks of life should be able to come and to learn the martial arts and through that practise internalize and develop the inner self. I think this is the aim of Dentokan too:

the Dentokan vision statement says:

"Build healthy minds, bodies, and spirits through the study of traditional martial arts."

Implicit in training then is the development of the spiritual self. The martial arts do contain a spiritual element that helps the person to grow as an individual. So Dentokan members should be well-rounded, respectful and to a certain extent spiritual people. The dojo is not a church or a temple or a mosque, it is a training hall: a training hall for the body, mind and spirit through the practise of martial arts.
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Old 09-30-2012, 06:25 AM   #18
SteveTrinkle
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Re: spirtuality in the dojo

aikido is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality to paraphrase carl sagen

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Old 09-30-2012, 06:46 PM   #19
graham christian
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Re: spirtuality in the dojo

Just watched the Ryder Cup. Mmmmm. Kami.

Peace.G.
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Old 10-01-2012, 01:13 AM   #20
Andrew Macdonald
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Re: spirtuality in the dojo

it is interesting that many of your don't and didn't do aiki for the spiritualside. I my self have no intrest in the ramblings of an aikido teacher on the subject of spirtuality. Ijust want to trainin. i have seen and heard of a few instructors that seem to want to set themselves up as some sort of guru just becasue they wear hakama.
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Old 10-01-2012, 03:58 AM   #21
robin_jet_alt
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Re: spirtuality in the dojo

Quote:
Andrew Macdonald wrote: View Post
it is interesting that many of your don't and didn't do aiki for the spiritualside. I my self have no intrest in the ramblings of an aikido teacher on the subject of spirtuality. Ijust want to trainin. i have seen and heard of a few instructors that seem to want to set themselves up as some sort of guru just becasue they wear hakama.
I agree. I just want to train, and while my teacher is very very good, I don't think he has any sort of spiritual superiority.
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Old 10-01-2012, 06:28 AM   #22
JJF
 
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Re: spirtuality in the dojo

I myself am probably more an atheist than anything else when it comes to categories - however I do firmly believe in some rules for how to behave towards each other, and I guess my aikido teachings has some values in common with basic christian belief. Compassion, forgiveness - and in the rare case walking on water - (sorry..bad joke.. I know). I just never point this out - it is up to each of my students to put whatever value into the things we do that they see fit based on their own way of life.

We have a short meditation before and after keiko. It is never EVER presented as being in any way related to religion or any type of deity. I encourage proper sitting, balance and breathing as far as I am able to teach this, and then I suggest that everybody use this moment to focus themselves on what they are about to do so that they can do it wholeheartedly. If for some reason they use this moment to connect with some sort of deity is their own responsibility - as long as they take care of each other and practice with a sincere effort and good mental attitude.

I guess I like to believe I create a lot of spirituality, but sort of with a 'void' in it where each student can put in whatever they believe to be true.

JJ

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Old 10-01-2012, 07:55 AM   #23
lbb
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Re: spirtuality in the dojo

Quote:
J°rgen Jakob Friis wrote: View Post
We have a short meditation before and after keiko. It is never EVER presented as being in any way related to religion or any type of deity. I encourage proper sitting, balance and breathing as far as I am able to teach this, and then I suggest that everybody use this moment to focus themselves on what they are about to do so that they can do it wholeheartedly. If for some reason they use this moment to connect with some sort of deity is their own responsibility - as long as they take care of each other and practice with a sincere effort and good mental attitude.
I have to say that I don't really see the sense of the "let's all close our eyes" moment before class. I don't think it's harmful, but it may be...misleading, perhaps? Certainly if you poll a class of martial artists you'd get several different answers as to what they're supposed to be doing during this "meditation", and what it's supposed to lead to. Again, probably not harmful, but in terms of doing something good, it's kind of random, isn't it?

There are many different meditation traditions, and they're not all seeking after the same thing -- not in the immediate sense, and not in the larger sense either. I'd guess that pretty much all of them have some usefulness to an individual, and some are particularly useful to martial arts practice -- I'm thinking here specifically of some of the Buddhist meditation practices. But they're practices, just like when you practice waza: if you want to get to the usefulness part, you have to learn them correctly, from someone who knows what they're teaching, and you have to practice them diligently. And what they teach is to focus on what's happening right now. Focusing on what you want to be doing in a minute, once class starts, goes completely against the point of those practices. I use this example not to say that one way is right and one way is wrong (although I have my own opinion about which is more valuable to a martial artist), but to point out just how fuzzy all this undefined "meditation" stuff is. Superficially similar methods, diametrically opposed goals...widely varying results, no?
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Old 10-01-2012, 08:45 AM   #24
JJF
 
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Re: spirtuality in the dojo

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
I have to say that I don't really see the sense of the "let's all close our eyes" moment before class. I don't think it's harmful, but it may be...misleading, perhaps? Certainly if you poll a class of martial artists you'd get several different answers as to what they're supposed to be doing during this "meditation", and what it's supposed to lead to. Again, probably not harmful, but in terms of doing something good, it's kind of random, isn't it?
Very well put Mary. I agree that there are many different interpretations, and that the 'meditation' we do is probably more tradition than an exercise with at specific purpose. However I have found that as time passes some of the things we do suddenly appear to become meaningful as I learn new things, so I'm not going to discard it as of yet.

Right now - to me - it is a perfect opportunity to practice just 'sitting' and feeling how my body falls into place / balance - and I love to spend this brief moment to contemplate the concept of why we study Aikido. Also for the children's class it is excellent training in being quiet

Great day to everybody

JJ

- J°rgen Jakob Friis

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Old 10-01-2012, 09:21 AM   #25
Mary Eastland
 
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Re: spirtuality in the dojo

Quote:
Andrew Macdonald wrote: View Post
ok this is kind of a general question

how much spirituality do you see in your dojo? do you try to find it just thorugh the techniques or is there focused mediatation practice.

did you join aikido for spirtual practice? if not are you interested in it now?
I see some. Everyone brings who they are and takes what they need. Some people practice in an inrospective, spiritual way and others train in other ways.

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