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Old 03-10-2017, 01:29 AM   #1
Cass
 
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Letting Go of the Ego

So I am keen to hearing the thoughts of others regarding ego and pride on the tatami and how they have overcome these obstacles. To me the aiki mindset is one of self-focus, humility and optimism and the aikidoka who embody it should avoid judgement of others and negativity.

For me this has become something of a problem, in part I believe it can be due to the challenges of different personalities but it is also something personal. For example I hate partnering with one uke who insists on trying to "teach" others of the same level, but only if they are women and this somewhat mentally pollutes me when I have to train with him and makes me irate. Likewise my sensei tries to treat everyone equally based on advancement through duration trained but not effort put in, so those that train once a week for several months will rise just as fast as those that train every day a week for several months. We do not do exams until 1st kyu so certain milestones like what class you are in or when you are asked to wear your hakama are the only judgement of where you stand per se. This should not bother me as I should only be concerned with my own training and not if others are "better" or "worse" or what they receive, but as someone that trains in a fully committed manner and has given much of myself to aikido I find the idea of treating everyone "completely equal" unfair.

Nonetheless, from the above you can probably see my issue, I care very much about what others think, how they train, how that affects me training, how well I am doing compared to them, etc. and I would like to mentally overcome this. I suppose I have a bit of a bipolar approach to my training, sometimes I am very confident and prideful about my ability and other times I am insecure and anxious. So how has anyone else overcome this sort of thing? I am considering asking my sensei tonight to be "demoted" back to the Beginners class until I can achieve a more aiki mentality, as I believe the mental aspect is just as important as the physical approach if not more so.

Insights are appreciated as I am at a loss here and would like to change,

Domo arigato



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Old 03-10-2017, 05:44 AM   #2
Mary Eastland
 
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Re: Letting Go of the Ego

Thank you for your candor. I can relate. I have gone through all the same thoughts and feelings many times.
The reason I have been training for 30 years is because I have stayed here. Aikido is so interesting to me I can't leave.
My mind comes up with all sorts of rational to get me to not enjoy it so much. And I stay anyway.
All the things that you describe are distractions from becoming what you can become if you just stay on the mat and train.

When my mind comes up with judgments I just notice them. No one needs to hear about them. When my body comes up with feelings I just feel them.

It really sounds like you are doing great...maybe a little too much in your head but that is understandable.

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Old 03-10-2017, 05:50 AM   #3
erikmenzel
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Re: Letting Go of the Ego

The proper aikido mentality is to go to class and train in a respectful and joyful manner.
Just be yourself, don't be someone else.

The rules you impose on yourself are harsher than what truly is expected of you. Just train.


Erik doesn't matter

Last edited by erikmenzel : 03-10-2017 at 05:53 AM.

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Old 03-10-2017, 06:22 AM   #4
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Re: Letting Go of the Ego

I am sympathetic to your feelings, as many years ago I stopped Aikido because I had become one of the seniors in my dojo and I felt I needed to work on my ego before continuing Aikido (as well as other reasons).

Quote:
Mary Eastland wrote: View Post
When my mind comes up with judgments I just notice them. No one needs to hear about them. When my body comes up with feelings I just feel them.
I think this is a very important point. For me, when I train, it brings out aspects of me I don't like. I get frustrated, afraid, and make mistakes as a result, no matter how well I might know a technique. To be able to step aside mentally and emotionally, as described above, when these things come up is a challenge, especially so if my partner is unhelpful in some way or another.

A wise friend suggested that when you encounter something unpleasant in a person, use it as a chance to look within for the aspect of yourself that mirrors it, and work on overcoming that. It is possible to channel feelings into determination to overcome obstacles I've found.

That being said, I don't think it is at all unreasonable to wish to be recognised for the efforts one has made at something, or to be treated fairly. As far as that upsetting us, it is only truly a problem if we then treat other people unreasonably or unfairly in turn. I've seen a few threads where people discussed the issue with their teacher and afterwards ended up changing dojo to somewhere where they were treated better.
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Old 03-10-2017, 01:13 PM   #5
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Re: Letting Go of the Ego

Quote:
Cassia Rose Heatley wrote: View Post
Nonetheless, from the above you can probably see my issue, I care very much about what others think, how they train, how that affects me training, how well I am doing compared to them, etc. and I would like to mentally overcome this.
Well...I'd say a good start is to own it, which you've just done. I don't think you can "overcome" this kind of trait; you can't grapple with it and wrestle it into submission. You can only become someone different, who isn't triggered in that same way to that same degree. And the way you become that someone different is, I think, to look in the mirror as Amos says, and then be both honest with yourself and gentle with yourself about what you see. And then, you need to be humble about the standards you set for yourself. When I was at your stage of training, I didn't think about what "the aiki mindset" is, or what the ideal aikidoka is -- honestly, where would I have gotten any idea about those things? My sensei didn't lecture us on the topic, no one said "hey, newbie, this is the aiki mindset, now pay attention" -- we showed up and trained. Things like "the aiki mindset" or "the ideal aidikoka" tend to be at least somewhat in the eye of the beholder, and as with anything that isn't cut-and-dried objective, your view of it will change over time. It's also a very lofty goal. If your goal is to become a paragon, you probably won't get there, ever -- and if you set that as your goal as a beginner, you'll almost certainly take a lot of wrong turnings as you pursue that imagined mountain top and fail to see what's at your feet.

When you look in the mirror, you see flaws. Facing that with honesty means owning them, not projecting them outward. That can be hard to do when you're dealing with other flawed human beings: you see the fellow student who insists on trying to teach others, and you can identify the flaw -- but you can't fix his flaws, only your own, and if that flaw grates so much, does it maybe mean you have something of that same tendency? And then, gentleness. You see something in yourself that you don't like, you feel hurt and upset, and you respond by being very hard on yourself, and vowing to completely eradicate that flaw, starting immediately. Stop. Breathe. Smile. Look at yourself with gentleness and affection, say, "yeah, human, you got a flaw," be forgiving of that. And then humility, means trying to take a tiny step in the right direction. Humility means recognizing that the step is tiny and that even so, you may fail at it. Humility means being ok with that.

Less analysis and more training will probably do you good. Aikido, like any challenging endeavor, defies analysis: it can't be approached through theory. The theory means nothing without data points for reference, and the "data points" are your experiences on the mat -- and until you have a LOT of data points, I think that theory and analysis do more harm than good. Experience aikido, don't interrogate it. Don't try to figure out what it means. Just do it. If the practice itself -- without the newage-sounding "aiki mindset", without being the "ideal aikidoka" -- is not enough, then don't do it.
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Old 03-10-2017, 02:01 PM   #6
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Re: Letting Go of the Ego

Quote:
Cassia Rose Heatley wrote: View Post
I am considering asking my sensei tonight to be "demoted" back to the Beginners class until I can achieve a more aiki mentality, as I believe the mental aspect is just as important as the physical approach if not more so.
Shoshin (beginner's mind) isn't about rank/level, its about mindfulness.
Perhap the question isn't how to let go, but to notice how we are hanging on and allowing others to disturb who we want to be (on the mat and off)...
Its easy to let go when we trust the environment and everything is the way we want it to be ...
Its harder and more valuable when we move to a place we are uncomfortable and learn to let go there ...
Perhaps we don't have to let go of the ego or stop hanging on to it ...
Perhaps we just need to learn to utilize it better ...

Lynn Seiser PhD
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We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 03-11-2017, 04:54 AM   #7
Cass
 
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Re: Letting Go of the Ego

Thank you everyone for the input, there is a lot of good advice here and it has helped me come to some realizations. I spent a lot of time in the last 24 hours reflecting on my mentality and searching within for the why to all of this.

I think the principal of trying to look at if there is something in this training partner that I don't like because I see it in myself. After consideration, this is true, I do try to help others as I train and give advice where applicable, usually only when I must but I realize that to others it is possible that I come across as he does to me (minus the gender element, which might just be my imagining). Yesterday during training I spent half the lesson partnered with the same guy and I tried to be more open and friendly, needless to say it went far better than it had when we previously trained together, he advised me and I was receptive and I gave him feedback as well.

I also spoke with my sensei, before I said anything he told me that I was doing better than expected and my training was going well. I voiced my concerns about my mindset and my speculations about if it was better to be "held back". Due to language barrier, this was difficult to explain but he did mention that he - after 17 years of training - also did not have the "aiki" mindset and that ultimately which class I wished to attend was my choice, if I wanted to stay in the Beginner class forever I was welcome to. Putting myself to a far higher standard than others would place themselves is also true, with many aspects of my life I always aspire to be exceptional which can make my expectations very demanding. It is worth mentioning though that none of this comes close to turning me away from aikido, it has brought me great purpose and I do find much joy in training, these issues are just clouds that pass over the sun for a brief moment. I think that it is perhaps irrespective of where I train and that ultimately I will always find someone, somewhere, that I would prefer not to train with for whatever reason. Allowing that to be OK, internalizing it and not dwelling is perhaps a harder step forward, as well as giving some sincere self-analysis when those moments arise.

So, in general, a more mindful approach during training and less overthinking off of the tatami seems to be the overall goal. The first I think will be easier than the latter as aikido preoccupies my mind quite a lot proportionally. So thank you once more, I will try to keep in mind what everyone has said. Regarding the class, well, surely I don't wish to return to the Beginner class forever, but I will let myself mull on that one some more - from the sound of things, the overall opinion is that it wouldn't make any difference.



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Old 03-13-2017, 08:26 AM   #8
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Re: Letting Go of the Ego

Quote:
Cassia Rose Heatley wrote: View Post
Putting myself to a far higher standard than others would place themselves is also true, with many aspects of my life I always aspire to be exceptional which can make my expectations very demanding..
What if you aren't exceptional? And is being exceptional necessarily a good thing?

Western culture loves the exceptional, to the point where we often disparage anything but. We don't often reflect on how insane this is. By definition, only a few people can be "exceptional", and no one is exceptional at all things. If we only respect and value that which is exceptional, we fail to respect the large majority of what is worthy. In contrast, in Japanese culture there is strong respect for doing one's best, whatever that is and whatever it results in. An American baseball pitcher once wrote about interacting with Japanese sportswriters after a game -- he learned, without knowing the meaning of the term, that "otsukare" was special praise from them. Sometimes it came after a game that he lost. It was a recognition from those sportswriters of his effort.

The odds are against your being exceptional in aikido, or in anything. This is true by definition. If you aren't exceptional in aikido, what will you do?
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Old 03-14-2017, 02:58 AM   #9
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Re: Letting Go of the Ego

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
What if you aren't exceptional? And is being exceptional necessarily a good thing?

Western culture loves the exceptional, to the point where we often disparage anything but. We don't often reflect on how insane this is. By definition, only a few people can be "exceptional", and no one is exceptional at all things. If we only respect and value that which is exceptional, we fail to respect the large majority of what is worthy. In contrast, in Japanese culture there is strong respect for doing one's best, whatever that is and whatever it results in. An American baseball pitcher once wrote about interacting with Japanese sportswriters after a game -- he learned, without knowing the meaning of the term, that "otsukare" was special praise from them. Sometimes it came after a game that he lost. It was a recognition from those sportswriters of his effort.

The odds are against your being exceptional in aikido, or in anything. This is true by definition. If you aren't exceptional in aikido, what will you do?
This is a good example of how we notice things outside of ourselves that reflect aspects of ourself that we don't like and need to work on. The greater, or more constructive path involves being aware of this, and overcoming those things in ourselves. The lesser path is the one you describe, where we want to be a certain kind of person, but instead of making the effort, expend energy being negative instead.

A book I once read described how when we "want" something, we push it away from ourselves further, because the universe creates our reality from our thoughts.

"If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading" - Lao Tzu

To be exceptional requires a profound amount of continued great effort. It is not odds, merely how much one truly desires to overcome oneself.
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Old 03-14-2017, 04:02 AM   #10
Cass
 
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Re: Letting Go of the Ego

I agree that it is not the easy path and there is a good chance of such achievement being unobtainable - but I can make peace with that. As long as I am progressing and learning, I am ok with it. I suppose the emphasis should be upon the striving for excellence rather than all the importance being placed upon achieving it. I should note that there are only a few areas of my life that I pursue this, not all, Aikido is just one of these few. I do think this is very characteristic of western culture to encourage this mentality and so long as one does not become too attached to the goal I think it can be a good motivator. That being aside from the fact that, if shoshin is maintained, you will never believe you are exceptional even if you in fact are. I suppose the issue therein lies upon the evaluation of this trait - is it good to pursue being exceptional or not. In my opinion, so long as it does not detract or distract from progression nor effect my mentality negatively, it is a good pursuit. In time, perhaps that will change, so long as I see it positively though, I am not sure it will. It makes plateaus and moments of struggle difficult but I am working on self-forgiveness in those instances, as I foresee many coming in the future. But I am determined and dedicated toward the path that is in front of me, I know over time my conviction may waver - I have been warned even, of beginners that quit after a year or two, when the passion ebbs. Persistence first and foremost I suppose.

The problem only arises with distractions, I get too in my head and because I wish to do well I end up measuring myself against others. I think this is only worsened by the lack of gradings at my dojo, you do not really know where you stand, though perhaps that is for the best because then you cannot be so definitively "better" or "worse" than your peers. I think over time I have become too judgmental - part of that comes from my closeness to my rather cynical/misanthropic fiance and another is just increasing lapses in self control. It's actually a little bittersweet because I have noticed this gradual change over the years as I became less empathetic and open, but before Aikido I never had a definitive example or feeling that I felt I could work upon. Like I said though, I'm working on it and hope that in the future I can look back on this thread and be amused by how far I have come. Onward and upward .



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Old 03-14-2017, 06:37 AM   #11
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Re: Letting Go of the Ego

Quote:
Amos Barnett wrote: View Post
To be exceptional requires a profound amount of continued great effort. It is not odds, merely how much one truly desires to overcome oneself.
You're mischaracterizing what I said, and also missing my point, I think. There's a long-playing American radio show that talks about a fictitious town where "all the children are above average". This is an impossibility. Likewise, it is an impossibility for every person, or even most people, or even many people, to be exceptional. By definition, it cannot be so.

If you strive to be "exceptional", by definition, you are striving to be better than others. You are setting your standards relative to other people. Where's the focus then?
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Old 03-14-2017, 07:00 AM   #12
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Re: Letting Go of the Ego

Good post

I believe Aikido is training for life and as other have mentioned understanding your ego in and off of the mat is important. I am constantly reminding myself of this at work lately as I recently began a new job. At work now I have less responsibility (and ironically better pay and benefits) having been a Director at my last employer and a Project Manager at the new one. My struggle has been that I am less involved in decision making and more involved in taking direction/creating agendas/taking minutes at meetings. What makes this tough is that both companies do the same thing, and (currently) my new employer does not do the job as well as my previous.

I am constantly fighting the urge to pass judgement and even worse, verbalize any disagreements I may have with decisions/strategy.

I keep telling myself that while I am at work I need to pretend I am at the dojo as I train with no ego pretty well and make a point to have have humility as you mention. Just show the enjoyment of training in everything we do at the dojo. At work I need to just have no mind, be fluid, be relaxed, and be fun. I have many bosses/sensei at work that I can learn a great deal from.

Perhaps I should just enjoy the ride and keep it in perspective because after all, as with becoming senior at the dojo, when I become senior at work again....that's when the real challenging training/work begins.

Chris Sawyer
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Old 03-14-2017, 07:19 AM   #13
Demetrio Cereijo
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Re: Letting Go of the Ego

Quote:
Cassia Rose Heatley wrote: View Post
So I am keen to hearing the thoughts of others regarding ego and pride on the tatami and how they have overcome these obstacles.
Why do you think ego and pride are obstacles?
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Old 03-14-2017, 01:43 PM   #14
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Re: Letting Go of the Ego

Demetrio,
How about "inflated" ego and " excessive" pride, general bombast, intransigent opinions, superficial assumptions and intellectual shenanigans?
;-)

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Old 03-15-2017, 08:13 AM   #15
leonagastya
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Re: Letting Go of the Ego

Very interesting post

As a beginner in Aikido I also have this type of mentality as I care very much on how people perceive the way I act in the dojo and my own performance in it. Because of this, previously I was not confident with my skills in the dojo and when the tests came up for me to advance to the next kyu, I was hesitant as I didn't think I was ready yet. But there are also times where I feel overconfident in the dojo as someimes I would do a technique too fast and not follow the instructions of my teachers. Luckily over the months of doing Aikido I've tried to focus on my mental development along with my physical development. What I've learnt is that when it comes to having a low self-esteem, I find it best to just clear the mind and believe in your own personal abilities. Don't get caught up with how people perceive you as they are not in your shoes, experiencing what you're doing. Instead focus on your inner development and compete against yourself and your standards rather than on others. Remember, the quality of your Aikido depends on how you view yourself so just be confident when doing it while being humble at the same time.
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Old 03-15-2017, 09:00 AM   #16
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Re: Letting Go of the Ego

Quote:
Alec Corper wrote: View Post
Demetrio,
How about "inflated" ego and " excessive" pride, general bombast, intransigent opinions, superficial assumptions and intellectual shenanigans?
;-)
That would be vanity, which is a vice.
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Old 03-15-2017, 09:14 AM   #17
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Re: Letting Go of the Ego

ego is a fickle and insidious thing. i think folks with small ego tend to hold on to it more. it tends to sneak up on you when you least expected in the most unlikely places, like in a buffet line. have you ever have someone cut in-front of you in a buffet line? oh yeah! the ego comes out and has a good old time. Don't forget that most of us have the alter ego which we kept it hidden. Mine is Darth Buffet-sidious.

on the other hand (which is the other one from the one you are thinking of), you could make your ego huge like O Sensei when he said "I am the universe!" Now there is a big ego. If you think about that for a bit, you would realize that if your ego is as big as the universe, then everything else or anyone else's opinions belong to you; thus you can ignore as will. it's a fuzzy logic thinking which is the same sort of logic after a long hard night of carousing. the world runs on fuzzy logic or i would say the universe runs on fuzzy logic, as we are talking about ego as big as the universe. so i would encourage you to make your ego so big that you can see beyond the event horizon.

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Old 03-17-2017, 05:57 AM   #18
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Re: Letting Go of the Ego

I think ego and pride being good or bad is a bit like talking about any trait. For me, I believe that without shoshin (I like this word, nicely noted earlier Lynn) you become an obstacle in your own training. This applies at any stage, but particularly so when you are an actual beginner as I am, to think you know what you are doing when in reality you might only grasp the very basics. I have seen it even with yudansha though, who firmly believe they are doing it right and persist in doing a technique incorrectly because they believe they know better. If you approach training with the mentality of always having something to learn from your partner though (regardless of your level and theirs), you are more likely to improve. Pride I think can only serve as a downfall on the tatami, you should be proud of your achievements of course but you should try to maintain a humble mentality. I have often heard even from very experienced sensei that they often learn more from beginners because they don't know what they are doing and improvise, while a more advanced student would just imitate precisely. Both can also cause conflict on the tatami, if you feel like someone is thinking of you as less skilled (either than you think you are, or than you actually are) it is easy to become distracted and start fostering resentment for others.

Since the creation of this thread I have begun training in a way that takes me more deliberately out of my comfort zone - partnering with those that I dislike intentionally. This has, with some mental fortitude and patience, made me more receptive to those people, I try to be friendly and try to understand their mentality and approach. And in turn, their attitude has gradually become better and an inkling of mutual respect starts to shine through. As of yet, I still do not approach the "yudansha side" of the tatami, but once I have grasped the break falls and high falls, I will push myself to venture out there as well. For the timebeing I just do not wish to disturb their training and deny them the right to practice comprehensively. I have remained in the mixed class, as ultimately after the responses written here it seems this is not something you can learn in a formal manner.

I still think things about others and would like to be held in high esteem, but I am trying to suppress that and not voicing my thoughts and opinions anymore (about others). It is somewhat difficult though as others I had previously voiced my own concerns to still wish to vent from time to time about partners.



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Old 04-17-2017, 07:40 AM   #19
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Re: Letting Go of the Ego

Quote:
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Mine is Darth Buffet-sidious.
The buffet is mine...I am the universe

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Old 04-27-2017, 06:06 PM   #20
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Re: Letting Go of the Ego

Quote:
Cassia Rose Heatley wrote: View Post
I think ego and pride being good or bad is a bit like talking about any trait. For me, I believe that without shoshin (I like this word, nicely noted earlier Lynn) you become an obstacle in your own training. This applies at any stage, but particularly so when you are an actual beginner as I am, to think you know what you are doing when in reality you might only grasp the very basics. I have seen it even with yudansha though, who firmly believe they are doing it right and persist in doing a technique incorrectly because they believe they know better. If you approach training with the mentality of always having something to learn from your partner though (regardless of your level and theirs), you are more likely to improve. Pride I think can only serve as a downfall on the tatami, you should be proud of your achievements of course but you should try to maintain a humble mentality. .
My interpretation of the philosophy behind Aikido is centered around the idea of moving past yourself and being one with your opponent. That being said, those who wish to place themselves above you are only limiting themselves. How can you become one with that you perceive as being less-than yourself? Do not worry yourself with their opinions, especially if said opinions are tainted with any negative connotations, lest their ego effect your performance.

You, from what I can gather, seem to be a honest and genuinely kind human being. Their ego and judgement are their own failings, not yours.

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Old 04-27-2017, 06:58 PM   #21
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Re: Letting Go of the Ego

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Snow Mathews wrote: View Post
How can you become one with that you perceive as being less-than yourself? Do not worry yourself with their opinions, especially if said opinions are tainted with any negative connotations, lest their ego effect your performance.
What you can do is observe the similar parts of yourself that the other person triggers in you, and use that develop that part of yourself into something better.

How one perceives everything in the world is a mirror of one's self, just as in training, when we attempt techniques, our thought patterns come out through our physical actions and the success or failure is a mirror of those things. Ideally, then we use that to become aware of our thought patterns and work through them. Less ideally one becomes senior enough that we can hide our faults, but eventually they come out in one way or another.
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Old 04-28-2017, 09:36 AM   #22
Cass
 
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Re: Letting Go of the Ego

It has been two months almost since I last posted in this thread, so I feel it is due to give an update. I made peace with the "unappealing partner", once I allowed myself to see in him what it was that I didn't like in myself that came quite easily. He quit around a month ago, but I am happy that I was able to resolve my conflict with him before that happened. My training is harmonious and I have no issues with any aikidoka, I also train frequently with yudansha now (as often as I do with white belts). I would like to thank the commenters above that helped me reach the right conclusion and approach and enabled me to improve myself and my training. I no longer talk of other aikidoka in an unkind manner and try to only say positive or constructive things toward my partners .



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Old 04-29-2017, 06:54 AM   #23
SeiserL
 
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Re: Letting Go of the Ego

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Cassia Rose Heatley wrote: View Post
My training is harmonious and I have no issues with any aikidoka, I also train frequently with yudansha now (as often as I do with white belts).
Thanks for the update.
Please remember that we only grow through how we conceive/perceive/respond to the issues/obstacles/struggles in life/training ... embrace them!

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 05-13-2017, 12:11 AM   #24
bothhandsclapping
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Re: Letting Go of the Ego

Letting go of the ego is a classic 'midnight archer' problem (like trying to hit a target in the dead of night). You can shoot arrow after arrow after arrow and maybe one day you'll get lucky - but probably not. Your best bet is to find a real teacher. Good luck.

Jim
Both Hands Clapping Aikido
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Old 05-13-2017, 01:57 PM   #25
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Re: Letting Go of the Ego

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Jim Redel wrote: View Post
Letting go of the ego is a classic problem (like trying to hit a target in the dead of night). You can shoot arrow after arrow after arrow and maybe one day you'll get lucky - but probably not.
Like a Zen koan or like looking for a black cat in the dark without a flashlight when there is no cat there ... LOL

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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