This month's "The Mirror" column was written by Al Garcia © 2012, all rights reserved.
My column last spring was about ennui. About going through the motions dedicated, but not finding much inspiration (we all know how that goes if we've practiced for a while). And about a coming visit from our Japanese head for training and testing, and how I was struggling to gather the money to pay my part to go, even if I couldn't afford to test.
Well, his visit has come and gone. It was worth gathering the fee, even though I had to skimp. Definitely worth it! He brought a couple of other sensei with him, so there were lots of experts to train with. I took copious notes, tweaked details, and learned that my flow (no longer a "step-step-step" execution) seems just fine. I mastered a new difficult kata with complex movements. And I came away inspired to really practice for testing next spring and to do my best to come up with the money to test.
In the months that followed the visit I began reviewing every technique I'd learned, polishing them, or mentally cementing my technique for the ones that had changed (some were slightly altered during a time when my attendance was spotty a few years back, and I still struggle with them at times). I would start with the basic techniques (5th kyu) and work up from there (I'm about halfway through the Shodan kata now). I was on a roll. My beginner's mind was engaged. Looking good!
At the end of June we had a brief spurt of rain here, after two bone-dry months. Mosquitoes came out. I got a couple of bites that really got inflamed and took longer to heal than usual for me, but I didn't think about the possibilities. The heat was very high and I was suddenly just absolutely wiped out, sleeping 10-11 hours a day, no strength for anything. (Thank goodness I was on summer break from teaching!) It was just as hot as May/June had been, but now it just took all my energy away. I was too wiped out to go to the dojo or do much at all. I missed practice completely for July and August. I wasn't sick, but I wasn't really myself physically, either. Towards the end of August I saw a special on West Nile virus, and now I'm wondering about those mosquito bites, as the symptoms seem consistent. Can't say I got it for sure, but could be, as these last two weeks I've felt better and had more energy, even though it's still hot as blazes here in the southwest. If I did get it mildly, then I was lucky that I pulled through without having to be hospitalized.
So, I've lost two months, and I will have to begin my testing reviews again now that I feel stronger. The summer wiped my energy away, but not my inspiration. Sometimes there are detours in life, things that come up unexpectedly and delay our progress, way-lay our plans. This is also part of our practice. Sometimes we have to take a break even if we don't want to. But the measure of practice is how many times you get up from being thrown down, how you persist in the face of obstacles, endure the ennui, and let that little seed of inspiration take root anew, grow, and bloom again.
For me, this is still at heart a meditative art, a way of centering. Centering in times of crisis is vital. Connecting deeply with my reasons for doing something and persisting in my efforts (even though, for me, my progress may be slower than others') is what's important. And I'll be back at the dojo next week
"The Mirror" is a collaborative column written by a group of women who describe themselves as:
We comprise mothers, spouses, scientists, artists, teachers, healers, and yes, of course, writers. We range in age from 30s through 50s, we are kyu ranked and yudansha and from various parts of the United States and styles of aikido. What we have in common is a love for budo that keeps it an integral part of our busy lives, both curiosity about and a commonsense approach to life and aikido, and an inveterate tendency to write about these explorations.