Why I'm smiling this morning
On my way to Boston, stopping to get a coffee, I found myself across the counter from a former member of our dojo who left without any explanation in the early summer. We'd heard she moved away to Maine, but there was no goodbye. Running into a former dojo member can be an awkward moment, particularly if they're not real happy with their decision, so I always bend over backwards to not be the Aikido Conscience: don't go there unless they raise the subject of aikido, be neutral and respect their reasons for leaving (which often, as in this case, have to do with life and not with aikido), be welcoming if they indicate that they want to come back.
"I want to start training again," she said. "I've been thinking about misogi."
That was a bit startling. "I want to start training again", you hear that a lot, and often it's much like saying "I need to get my butt into the gym." Or, watching an accomplished pianist, "I wish I'd stuck with piano lessons when I was a kid." Or, as a friend said to me once, "I really want to hike." Wanting the result -- the skill, the fitness, the accomplishment, the view from the peak -- but not wanting the process that gets you there. But misogi? That's a thought that many people try to avoid.
This former student was my partner for misogi last New Year. It was her first, and her eyes got big as Sensei described what we were about to do, stayed big as she looked around in the rush for a partner. I can't turn away from big-eyed puppies, kittens or misogi newbies. I set us a steady pace and occasionally murmured encouragement: "Doing fine. That's it. Make each one your best." Her cheeks grew pink, her breathing deepened, she reached progressively deeper: for breath, for power, for knowledge. We finished strong and bowed, thanked each other, wished each other a happy new year. Routine words with new meaning. Thank you: I am truly grateful, to you, this special person who helped me dig deep. Happy New Year: we have begun this year well, let's take joy in it and not forget this lesson.
She didn't forget. She did more than endure and get through it. And now, she's ready to do it again.