There are many times when I am struck with gratitude for my teacher. Here is a man who has trained in Aikido for many years, who is a perceptual genius, and who has devoted himself to sharing the art with his students.
The physical experience of training with him is that of being enveloped – utterly controlled, and completely safe. The emotional sense is one of total freedom to try, fail, and learn, again completely safe, trusting.
That is not to say it’s all sweetness and nice, painless, or comfortable. Sensei sees through pretense, to the heart of the matter, and is willing to be direct and honest. Sometimes a seemingly off-hand comment cuts deep. My initial reflexive reaction is to defensively discount it as a moment of temper or frustration perhaps, or simply something misperceived. “That’s not so.” “I am not like that.” “He’s wrong.”
But it’s probably true that more it stings, the more accurate it is, and the harder I’ve been trying to hide it.
I’ve learned to allow for the possibility, even in my initial denial (which I now recognize as automatic, and meaninless), that there may be some truth there. “What did I do, or how was I being, that created that perception?" Of course, there is no differentiation between how I am perceived and who I am really. There is no "real us” that the world never sees. There is only how we come across to others.
It’s a privilege to work with someone who sees so clearly. No one has ever had such faith in me to be open to straight, direct coaching, has been so unphased by honest communication, or so committed to helping me find my own way, with no expectations or obligations imposed. He helps me to see who I am.