Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
A friend recently gave me a book she thought I might enjoy, and I really have. It’s the sort of book that whatever you open it up to, there’s something relevant to whatever’s going on. It’s poetic without being sappy, and inspiring without being preachy. Calming. Sensible.
Just yesterday day a friend on Facebook mentioned that it must have been really sad for me to give up riding. My reply began “Surprisingly not all that sad. Trying to remain committed to something I was really no longer committed to was difficult. Finally seeing things clearly was a relief. …” And just hours later I randomly picked up the book, and opened it to this, which is also relevant to Aikido technique, and Aikido in everything:
Everyone will tell you
“Change is hard,”
Transformation is the greatest
On your spiritual journey.
But it’s not true.
Change is not hard.
Resistance to change is
If you let go
Surrender into the
Open your fists and
All you are clutching
And simply be still as the
Winds of transformation
Blow through you
Then everything in you that is
Will be carried away with the
Leaves and dust and debris
Lifted into the air and
And all that will remain
If you stop trying so hard to change
Like a strong breath clearing a
Palmful of ashes
Just let the
by Nicole Grace,
from her book:
Bodhisattva – How To Be Free
Teachings to Guide You Home
Sick with an ordinary cold
Nothing to do but wait it out
And feel sorry for myself
For missing class
Instead I settle in with videos
Random classes decades ago
Years before even my teacher
First heard of Aikido
Awkward, white-belted beginners
Fresh-faced, eager, nameless ukes
Who have these people become?
Teachers? Writers? Leaders?
Do I know them?
Are they the ones showing the way now?
Do I go to their seminars?
Read their books?
I think of our time, my fellow students,
Even the awkward, nameless ones
Who will we have become
When people look back on us?
You see when a baby animal experiences stress, its brain changes so that it’s subsequently less sensitive to stress hormones. This means that, as an adult, the critter recovers more rapidly after a hair-raising experience (21). And we know that play (which normally consists of exciting ‘flight or fight’ behaviors) activates the same neurochemical pathways as stress (22). So maybe young animals are using play to prime or fine-tune their own stress response.
The other very important thing we’ve learnt from the humble rat is that when they’re reared with lots of companions and interesting objects, they develop larger brains than rats that grow up in austere surroundings. These enriched rats not only have heavier cerebral cortexes, with more neural connections, they learn more quickly too.
Researchers teased apart the factors that promoted this brain growth and found that sensory stimulation and arousal (even together) couldn’t increase cortical growth unless they were coupled with interactive behavior (i.e. play or training). And it was play that had the biggest impact; in fact, the more a young rat played, the more rapidly its brain grew (23).
This is kinda funny, especially relative to the “wake-up call” quality of atemi discussed in class last night. Today I was listening to the Working Class Comedy channel on Pandora. The comedian, Archie Campbell, was being heckled by a guy in the audience, and finally hollered back “Buddy, if you don’t shut up I’m gonna have to come up there and knock you conscious.” :-)
Today marks the beginning of my third year in Aikido.
When I first started training, I meant to become a better horseperson. I have, but part of the process has been to discover that I don’t want to have a horse of my own, and so he is off with a friend, looking for his new person.
At first I thought I would not bother with weapons. I’ve never been into swords and ninja and samurai. I was just going to stick with the open-hand stuff. Instead I discovered that I love weapons work.
When I first called Sensei to ask about training, I explained how I could only be at the dojo one night a week. Now I train four or five days a week, plus workshops and seminars.
At first I disregarded the “woo-woo” stuff I’d heard about. Now I see that the emotional, energetic, spiritual, and embodiment aspects are where the real fun is. Well, there, and flinging each other around the dojo.
This year is a new adventure. I see a few familiar things on the horizon, a couple of seminars, and testing for 3rd kyu in July, but mostly I’m walking the path in wonder, open to discovering whatever lies ahead.