“…Aikido is different from all previous martial arts. Its sole purpose is to experience universal truth in one’s own body and spirit.

I ask all of you to explore the spiritual dimensions of Aikido.”

Morihei Ueshiba (O Sensei)

As translated by John Stevens, in “The Heart of Aikido – The Philosophy of Takemusu Aiki”

A Mysterious Gift

Sometimes my brain seems like hard, dry ground. If too much information is poured onto it, a lot runs off, and down the gutter. More soaks in from a gentle rain than from a fire hose. Even so, it sometimes sits in pools for days before it settles into the soil. Eventually the ground softens, and some time later I begin to notice hints of green. Tiny leaves of knowledge, sprouting.

Sometimes bits of information are more like ping-pong balls, fired from all directions. I see them all, but can only grab so many before they bounce away. I might notice that several went off into a corner, and I can go and collect them later, but many more escape. 

And then there are times like tonight, when something precious is gently offered. I accept it with both hands, not sure what it is, and hold it as tightly as I dare, for fear of dropping it. It seems fragile, and important. Rare. I turn it this way and that in the light, feel the roughness and smoothness of it, and listen for any sound. Perhaps if I sit quietly enough, and look into it long enough, I will understand its message.

Practicing Love

One of my horsey friends, Lisa Illichmann, posted this earlier today in a discussion thread about some ongoing hatefulness or other in the popular media. This is so well stated, and relates so well to Aikido training, that I asked her if I might share it here. (And she said that I may.)

“Anger, like any strong emotion, is addictive. We actually begin to enjoy the rush of anger (which really is only a form of fear), it makes us feel right – some injustice has been done to us – and this, of course, makes the others wrong. 

Interestingly enough, the same is true with strong feelings of love. We can just as easily become addicted to the rush of love. And more interesting, both of these emotions can be trained, honed and perfected. All we need is conscious practice in order to go from fear to love. (Emphasis is on the word "conscious.”)“

For me, the dojo is the place to practice. And make a little change. And practice. And fall back into familiar patterns, and see that, under the magnifying glass of Aikido. And practice some more. ”…conscious practice in order to go from fear to love.“ So well put.

Frank Doran Sensei says simply, and to the point, "Practice kindness.”

Dave Goldberg Sensei says, in his most recent blog post, “Love is the glue between Yin and Yang—Uke and Nage. If you let the glue set and harden you lose the qualities that make your Aikido compassionate. You will not be a protector of *both* Uke and Nage. Keep the glue alive and vibrant so that it will stick to anything.”

O-Sensei is quoted as having said “True budo is a work of love. It is a work of giving life to all beings, and not killing or struggling with each other. Love is the guardian deity of everything. Nothing can exist without it. Aikido is the realization of love.”

Practice, practice, practice…

Meditation in the New Dojo

The same ocean breeze is here, warmed and softened as it made its way inland up nine miles of wide river valley, Still familiar, but stronger near these hills on the north side, it wanders in through the broad half-open door. The bright high note of two small bells invites us to settle deeply into sitting, breathing.

The river to our west flows in silence, but the distant freeway’s roar could be a river’s roar. Breathe. Spiraling fans above confuse and redirect the breeze. Inhale. The river-scented air expands our lungs and our awareness. We sit on what was fertile bottomland a hundred years ago. Exhale. Settle.

The breeze touches our necks and lightly strokes our hair, like a lonely ghost glad to find company. An empty tanker truck rumbles and bounces down the road. Inhale. Inspire. Inspiration. Breathing.

The soft mat and the hard floor and the fertile soil and the flowing river cradle us, sitting, eyes closed, in their open palms.

The mission’s bell, still just a whisper here, sounds more urgent on this side of the valley. It calls the farmers in from their fields as it has for centuries, not knowing they are long gone, the farmers, and their fields too.  Exhale, and let them go. We cultivate something else here now. Our work nourishes the spirit.

The two small bells guide us back as the mission’s bell falls silent. The breeze remembers its direction and continues, through another door and up the valley. 

Rediscovering Joy

Amazed at the joy available in Aikido. 
I mean, WTH?

Breathless, smiling-for-no-reason joy.
Joy for no reason.

Excited-to-get-up-in-the-morning joy.
Joy in everything.

Full of energy, comfortable in my body.
Embodied joy.

Settled mind, leaping heart, yearning.
Forgotten joy.

A song you loved and hear again.
Every word a friend.

New messages, new meanings, new joy.
Listening anew.

Fresh ears, fresh eyes, an open mind.
Fresh joy.

An open body in clear air. Connection.
Love in motion.

Getting Back to Work

A few months ago I said I felt “Like Bread Dough,” letting things settle in as a new 5th kyu. I decided to allow myself to spend some time just showing up and training. I have indeed been doing that, while mostly concentrating on other things – training my horse, getting some health questions answered, helping move the dojo, and doing my work and a few house projects. While some of those things are still ongoing, I’ve found that lack of focus on my Aikido rather unfulfilling, and now I’m eager to get back to work. Looking forward to class tonight!