This month's "The Mirror" column was written by Susan Dalton ę 2014, all rights reserved.
We couldn't fly directly into New York from Greensboro, but all went smoothly and we got there early. Good. We'd be there in plenty of time before our guests from Japan. When they arrived early afternoon, we could meet them at baggage claim, check into our hotel, sightsee a while, and have a nice dinner. If they wanted to turn in early, we'd be well-rested for class in the morning.
However, Hurricane Arthur had other plans.
Once again, our friends got stuck in Detroit. (I wrote a column http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?p=265177
in 2010 about another time they got stuck. Admittedly I'm not a quick study. Some lessons I have to learn over and over again.) They'd flown all night from Nagoya, and now they spent another ten hours or so in Detroit waiting for the weather to clear at LaGuardia. It was one of those delays where the flight would be put off for an hour, then another hour, then another. Twice the flight got cancelled and then un-cancelled. This time we were more prepared. We had the number for the hotel inside the Detroit airport. While we were on the phone making the reservation, the text came that they were boarding. They'd be in New York by 11 p.m. and we could finally get out of this airport.
Of course getting to the hotel took a while, we needed to check in and put our luggage up, and they hadn't eaten because they'd been advised to stay in the gate area in case conditions changed. The place we'd planned to take them had long closed by the time we started out again. None of us minded the extra few blocks' walkŚwe had a lovely, relaxing dinner and were back at the hotel by 2:30 a.m. Good thing we weren't in GreensboroŚwe would have only been able to find a greasy breakfast or convenience store snacks this time of night. Now to unpack and set our alarms for our 5:30 wake up call. I was cutting it closeŚwe were meeting in the lobby at 6:15, but we'd have our dojo bags packed before we went to bed. In the morning we just needed to brush our teeth and throw on some clothes. Our whole purpose in coming to New York was our teacher wanted to introduce us to Yamada Shihan, and he was teaching the 6:45 a.m. class at New York Aikikai.
Oh no! I sat straight up in bed and looked at the numbers 6:05 on the clock. Something (probably me) had screwed up with the alarm. "Sorry," I said to our shihan's daughter, my roommate for the trip, as I shook her awake. "We've really got to move now."
"Daijobu des," she said. I knew she probably wanted to pull the covers over her head, but up she jumped. At 6:15 we were stepping off the elevator into the lobby where our four companions awaited us to walk to the dojo.
Well before class began, my friends, dressed neatly in dogi and hakama, sat in seiza and did gentle stretches. I hurriedly finished our paperwork and ran to get changed. Just as I bowed onto the mat and eased as close to seiza as these creaky knees will go so early in the morning, class started.
Humidity hung heavy in the air. We'd only done a few warm ups and I was already wringing wet. Sweat dripped off my hair, stinging my eyes. Maybe that was good. Water in my eyes might keep them open.
No whining, I told myself. You've had way more sleep in the past days than they have. Look at their example. Forget tired eyes, tired legs, tired mind. Breathe. Listen. Stay in the moment. Do the technique four times, then grab, hold on, and fall, get up, do it again. Keep getting up. Gambarimasu! No making excuses. No thinking about how tired you are. No watching the clock. What was it Dennis Hooker Sensei said so long ago? " Ichi-go Ichi-e." "One time, one meeting." You will never have this exact opportunity again. Think of your shihan, think of Dennis, think of all those aikidoka whose perseverance you admire. Perseverance, completing each technique, builds a strong center. Tanaka Shihan, Dennis Sensei, and Tanaka Shihan's father in his wheelchair put on their warrior faces and went out there, no excuses. Try to emulate their example. Now stop thinking and get back up.
Continuing when our minds give us so many reasons to quit may be the real practice.
Of course I had to do my best with my shihan right there. He honored me by bringing me to meet Yamada Shihan. I had to honor them both and myself by keeping my posture and persevering. The class ended after only an hour, rather than the hour and a half I expected. It was over so quickly, and I still was getting up. By now my knees were stretched out enough I could sit correctly in seiza. Yay! I did it.
I'll never be a warrior. Hopefully, I'll never be in battle. But I have plenty of chances to practice not whining, not making excuses, just persevering and doing the best I can. Now to take this lesson and apply it all those times my shihan isn't watching. Gambarimasu!
"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.