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And now for something completely different
And now for something completely different
by Lynn Seiser
02-28-2015
And now for something completely different

Breathe in, same old thing
Breath out, same old thing
"and now for something completely different "

I am a Monty Python fan. They were a British comedy troupe. One of my favorite skits was a couple men chatting over tea. The skit was interrupted by an announcer saying, "We interrupt this program for something completely different!" Then they went right back to the tea. They did this interruption and proclamation repeatedly. Each time it got funnier to me and more obvious that we all do this.

I recently attended the Annual East Coast Bridge Seminar at Shindai Dojo in Orlando, Florida. Great instructors, great training, great people, great opportunity to learn "something completely different".
Same: (1) identical, similar, equal, matching, alike, (2) previously mentioned, (3) unchanged, constant, consistent, even, unaffected
In the dojo, when we first learn a technique, it is new. We have no prior frame of reference therefore we try to relate it to something that we already know. We think this makes learning easier without understanding it make learning something new so much harder. When I was learning the bashing styles of martial arts, the switch between one to another was hard enough, but switching from a bashing art to Aikido was very hard. In many ways, my past training made it harder. I wanted to learn so I looked for something I already knew to speed up the process. Therefore, instead of seeing and taking in something new, I was actually seeing and taking in the same old thing. Even though I thought I was looking for something completely different, I only saw what was the same. Perception is very subjective that way. At the Bridge Seminar, I was aware that what I saw demonstrated was not necessarily what was actually done, especially if I continued to mentally look for the sameness.

In life, it is no different. We learn what we live. Early in life, we learn the roles and rules of life from our family of origin and the society/culture we grew up in. Once we accept these patterns and processes and incorporate and integrate them into our own identity, we project them onto everything and anyone we see. We think everything is the same and often miss things that are different. Alternatively, we can learn opposite patterns and think we are individually unique and everyone else is different from (and perhaps against) us. Either way, what we did yesterday, we do today, and will do tomorrow. We are creatures of habit, doing the same thing over and over (getting what we always got but hoping for something completely different).
Same: (1) identical, similar, equal, matching, alike, (2) previously mentioned, (3) unchanged, constant, consistent, even, unaffected
Ever hear the expression, garbage in -- garbage out? Perhaps it is the same old thing in -- the same old thing out.

In the dojo, we become frustrated and impatient with our progress. We should be getting better. We train harder and we train longer. We do what we have always done. We are told to "get it" so we just keep training. We think that they have it and we think they know what they are talking about (and who is they anyway?). We do get better. Doing what we have always done gets easier, takes less thought and less energy, or maybe it is just false progress because it is still the same old thing disguised as something completely different. At the Bridge Seminar, I was aware that as I went mindfully slow, I could stay in doing something different, but when I sped things up, I went back to my well-practiced, deeply-ingrained way of doing things. Even when I thought I was doing something completely different, I was actually doing something completely the same (old thing).

In life, we tend to keep making the same mistakes. Again, perhaps we learned our way of being in the world from our family system of origin or the social norm we grew up in. Often even when we think we are trying to do something "completely different", we are actually doing something completely the same. As a couples/family counselor, I have seen people struggle in relationships. When we looked into patterns, we find people choose the same type of person (often like a parental figure) and treat them the same way (as they did in past relationships and as their parents treated each other). The person is different, but everything else is the same (maybe the same for generations -- we call that tradition). I hear people say that they have to do things their way, despite their way has no history of success. We hang on to the same old thinking. Perhaps it is our ego attachment and identification with problem-creation and (failed) problem-solving strategies that cultivate, facilitate, and perpetuate ignorance, arrogance, and suffering.
Different: (1) dissimilar, unlike, changed, altered, (2) unusual, special, distinctive, atypical, unique (3) another, distinct, separate, discrete, (4) various, numerous, assorted, diverse
In the dojo, if I want to learn something new, I need to look for something completely different. Perhaps I need to look at each movement and technique separate from its variation. At the Bridge Seminar, instructors showed their variations of the same technique. Perhaps the timing, the posture, the position, or the execution is slightly different (but certainly not the same). Perhaps what made the difference are the subtleties in intention and application of principles more than physical movement. The goal is not just to move differently but also to actually think and feel differently. To me, that is the training. I used to take notes and try to remember everything. There always seemed to be too much to keep conscious track of and I would get over loaded, confused, frustrated, and exhausted. Yet, there was something in the cross-training (outside my normal box or comfort zone) that was liberating, exciting, and just plain fun.

In life, if I want something completely different I try getting it the way I always did. If this pattern has been successful in the past, I just might be successful again. However, if it has been unsuccessful in the past I keep trying it, thinking that eventually it will work or I just keep trying it harder and harder until something really breaks. As a counselor and educator, it is hard to teach people something new, something completely different. We have such an ego-identity-attachment to our views and ways. We say, "It is not me" if it does not fit the old pattern. Since the old-me has always failed at it, perhaps I should try a new-me. Many people think change is hard when continuing in failure and despair is by far harder. Many people think they cannot change. When we get honest with ourselves, we learn who we are by identifying with the people we attach to. Anything we learned can be unlearned and relearned including who we think we are. When asked if people change, I say they change all the time. Change is natural and inevitable, it is a natural and normal development and evolution. We tend to change unconsciously without mindful decisions and directions. If I want my life to be completely different, then I have to be completely different. And that is completely possible and completely exciting.

Breathe in, same old thing
Breath out, same old thing
"and now for something completely different "

Thanks for listening, for the opportunity to be of service, and for sharing the journey. Now get back to training. KWATZ!
Lynn Seiser (b. 1950 Pontiac, Michigan), Ph.D. has been a perpetual student of martial arts, CQC/H2H, FMA/JKD, and other fighting systems for over 40 years. He currently holds the rank of Yondan (4th degree black belt) from Sensei Dang Thong Phong of the International Tenshinkai Aikido Federation and Sensei Andrew Sato of the Aikido World Alliance. He is the co-author of three books on Aikido (with Phong Sensei) and his martial art articles have appeared in Black Belt Magazine, Aikido Today Magazine, and Martial Arts and Combat Sports Magazine. He is the founder of Aiki-Solutions and IdentityTherapy and is an internationally respected psychotherapist in the clinical treatment of offenders, victims, and families of violence, trauma, abuse, and addiction. He is a professor of clinical and forensic psychology with an expertise in family violence and treatment. He currently lives in Marietta, GA and trains and teaches at Kyushinkan Dojo, Roswell Budokan.
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