A new way of writing

Well, I’ve run into an interesting complication with writing. I’ve managed to screw up the radial nerve in my left arm. My thumb and forefingers tingle and go numb when I use my right arm for things like the trackball or the keyboard. So, I’m trying an experiment. I am using the voice to text feature on my iPhone to dictate blog posts And other writing.

The good news is that Aikido seems to loosen things up. I trained for 12 days straight at the beginning of the year, and improved continuously. My physical therapist was very impressed. Then for one day on a Sunday, I didn’t train, and instead worked at the computer off and on. That about did me in! Even with frequent stops for stretching, PT exercises, and other movement, my neck and shoulders got really tight and painful.

I got back to training, slowly, with a few false starts, and yesterday managed over six hours on the mat. I’m no worse for the wear. If anything everything is a little looser. Today I have a class in the morning, and then another appointment with my orthopedic doctor. We’ll see what we can figure out.

Meanwhile, I had a great time over the weekend at the Aikido Bridge Friendship Seminar, and at a seminar with Dave Goldberg sensei at Aikido Tijuana. I was very disappointed to not be able to take ukemi for some shodan exams there, on Sunday. Alas… I hope next time I will be able to. I am grateful that this injury at least is not keeping me off the mat, for the most part. I just need to learn how to write by speaking. It’s an interesting challenge!

Late at Night

I hope my neighbors are in their beds, dreaming their dreams, late at night.
I hope they are sound sleepers, sawing logs, not bothered by much.
I hope they are not nosy; not peering from their windows with the lights out.

It’s bad enough I feed the donkeys after class, and sometimes after dinner.
The braying at 10:30 could be trying if my neighbors were awake.
The clatter of cat food into dishes, and splashing of water into large bowls,
Might not be too bad. At least the kitties are well enough behaved.

I hope my neighbors are not fearful.

They would surely wonder what that crazy Eskin lady is doing now,
out there in the dark, swinging and swirling a rake handle overhead
while the donkeys munch their hay.

“Has she at last gone completely mad?”

How could they know that practicing the 20 jo suburi in the stillness
is the perfect way to settle down before settling into bed?

If they do see, I hope my neighbors don’t worry.

“Why on earth is she lying on the driveway, on her back, at 2 a.m.?”
Maybe they haven’t seen the observatory in the yard.
Maybe they didn’t read the news about the meteor shower.

“And why is that rake handle lying across across her chest?”
Perhaps they haven’t noticed the raccoons,
Who’ve come to eat the cat food.

Intention and Attention

Earlier this week as I was doing a few hours of mundane chores – tasks that required no mental effort – I noticed that my mind was dwelling on random things. I wondered about the kind of person who would leave a Mercedes SUV idling for 30 minutes near the open door of the dojo, while they waited for someone shopping next door. I admired the craftsmanship in a piece of artwork as I dusted it, and thought how we can be known by the quality of our work long after we are gone. I reminded myself, again, that I really ought to clean out my car. I thought about community, and how everyone contributes in their own way. I considered patching a few little nicks in some drywall, and wondered what a stray half-inch sheet metal screw might have fallen off of.

I noticed the amount of energy and creativity that was necessary to think these pointless, and sometimes negative thoughts, and decided it would be better spent planning the kids’ class I was going to be teaching later that day, or generating ideas for future writing projects. If I was going to put so much effort into thinking about something, it might as well be positive and useful, right?

So, I tried that, and within moments was off thinking about something else – maybe the design of the stepladder, or how it is that some people can’t figure out which way to drive through our parking lot. I didn’t even realize my mind had wandered off, of course, until later. “Hey, wait a minute… Wasn’t I supposed to be outlining chapters in my head?” I tried again, and again, with very little success. I was reminded of Wendy Palmer Sensei’s idea of the mind being like a puppy. It runs off, bounding after this or that, and we need to call it back, over and over, until eventually it learns to stay with us for longer periods of time. My puppy mind wasn’t having any of it. Off in the next county, like a Bloodhound following a fresh scent trail. Alas.

That evening’s class was co-taught by our teacher, Dave Goldberg Sensei, and Miles Kessler Sensei from Tel Aviv, Israel. The two of of them would be leading the Evolutionary Aikido 2013 seminar over the weekend, and this class was a little bit of a warm-up/preview for us. It was also the first class of the year at our dojo, so some of the work we did centered around the transition from the old to the new year.

First we were asked to think of something we wanted to continue from the past. I chose my ability to change direction easily. I’m pretty flexible about changing circumstances. “OK, we’ll just do something different now.” It’s served me well, especially in the last few years, switching from horses to Aikido, and from my former career to writing. Dropping this and moving on to that. I think I’ve been getting better at it recently, with practice.

Next we were asked to come up with something we wanted to let go of, or stop doing. Thinking of my inability to stay focused earlier in the day I chose being distracted. I’d like to stop being distracted from completing my intended task. Think of how much more I could accomplish, doing better work with less struggle!

And then I realized that those were two sides of the same coin – the positive ability to change focus, to set off in a new direction, and the negative consequences of taking just any new direction unconsciously. It’s especially interesting given that one aspect of the seminar is going to be opposites, or things that are seemingly opposites. Too much of one or the other can be pathological, but when they coexist it can lead to a better outcome. I certainly have some material to work with, here! And it’s important, real stuff that’s present in my day-to-day life, not some “woo-woo” philosophical ponderings to be left behind come Monday morning. I need to be disciplined and productive if I’m going to be successful, but I also need to keep the openness and responsiveness, being willing to adjust as I go.

As we were training, I kept an awareness of my intention to stay focused on what I was doing – trying to let go of being distracted. Even then my attention would wander! That technique was like something else I saw recently. Did our friends from Tijuana have a long wait to cross the border? Were we getting too close to that other pair? Someone over there looked concerned – maybe they needed help with something. My tendency to do anything but stay present was very strong, and very annoying! I’d heard people speak of Aikido as “moving meditation,” but I never really got that until just then, when I noticed how much my experience was like trying to stay aware of feeling my breathing.

I’ve seen something related to this before, about myself – in workshops with Sensei – that in my world productive work and joyful expression cannot co-exist. I have being disciplined and staying on task confused with stern, separate, dull, lonely punishment. Being expressive and happy means I’m not doing whatever I’m supposed to be doing. The opposite of that is pursuing whatever is interesting at the moment, socializing with friends, doing the laundry or even cleaning the donkeys’ corral. Work is hard, and play is fun. Even when I’ve chosen the task and it’s something I love, it triggers a part of me that rebels at doing it, and will do anything to run away.

With three intense days of training ahead I am sure I will have many opportunities to confront and examine these issues. I know there is freedom in discipline, love in work, and joy in productivity. My brain knows that. Now if I can just begin to allow myself the experience of it… I’m looking forward to the weekend, and to what comes after.

– – – – –

p.s. I sat down to write this post earlier today, but found a hundred other things to do instead. Too distracted to write about being distracted. Ha! Now, after a solid, physical evening of training, I’ve finally been able to stick with it long enough (3 hours) to get it done. I’d be willing to have this process flow more easily.

Also, here’s my column on AikiWeb…

In addition to writing here, I am part of a group of women called “The Mirror,” on AikiWeb. We write a column there, taking turns each month. My most recent one, “What I Learned by Not Going to a Seminar” was published on December 31st. Enjoy…

“For months my teacher, Dave Goldberg Sensei, had been planning to participate in the Dead Sea Seminar, led by Miles Kessler Sensei and Patrick Cassidy Sensei, in Israel. There were to be other stops along the way, making this a 15-day trip for him. Before the seminar, Sensei would stop in Switzerland to train, and was to teach an Aikido Without Borders class in the Ramallah, in the West Bank. A couple of dojo mates were planning to participate in the seminar as well. It was a big deal, to have a contingent from our dojo going, and it would be the longest time Sensei had been away.

[continue reading at the link below]


New Year’s Day, 2013

Happy New Year to you!

I’m so excited about this year. I’ve spent the past 6 months, the last half of 2012, getting ready. I transitioned from full-time to part-time work so I could focus more on Aikido and writing. I’ve started organizing my work, found resources, learned new tools, and gotten ongoing coaching. I launched my own publishing company (which has yet to publish anything, but it’ll be there when I need it), Shugyo Press. I’ve finished up projects, and gotten rid of things I’m not using. I’ve given musical instruments away, put horse stuff on consignment, and donated books. I’ve cleared out and cleaned up space, in my house, on my shelves, and in my mind. Yesterday, New Year’s Eve, I spent the whole day cleaning, right down to the cobwebs on the ceiling and the gunk on the baseboards. Michael and I enjoyed a quiet little celebration with a long-time friend.

Now, fueled by a good night’s sleep and two cups of coffee, I’m on a ridge looking over a vast plain. I have time to think and room to move. I won’t try to plan out 2013 – there’s too much I don’t know – but I have an idea of the direction I want to take. I can see what lies just ahead pretty well, though, and I’m really excited about it. Here’s what I have planned for the next few weeks:

Today, New Year’s Day – Clean the dojo in preparation for a seminar this coming weekend, and then head to another local dojo, Jiai Aikido, for a joint Kagami Biraki training session and potluck with the nice folks there. What a fun way to start the year.

Tomorrow, Wednesday – Do final dojo cleanup. Help in the afternoon kids’ class, or maybe teach it, depending on Sensei’s schedule. Participate in the evening’s class – our first class of the year – which will be co-taught by our Dave Goldberg Sensei and Miles Kessler Sensei. (Woohoo!)

Every free moment between these things, physical therapy (PT) exercises. Lots of stretching and strengthening. Something in my right shoulder is pulling on my spine, sending zinging, tingling sensations down my left arm to my thumb and forefingers. The good news is that most of what I do on the mat helps (although I can’t take ukemi for ikkyo ura right now). I started PT a couple of weeks ago. It’s going slowly, but I’ve got to get this resolved.

This Friday through Sunday, participate in a seminar at our dojo with Kessler Sensei and Goldberg Sensei. I’m really looking forward to this!

And the whole time, writing. Outlining, organizing, planning, and just plain writing. I’m participating in an ongoing group of writers, The Merry Inksters, who are a big help in staying focused and leaning the ins and outs of professional writing and publishing. Starting a week from today I’ll be taking a local 5-week course on writing and publishing, too. My short-term goal is go have my first eBook (a little one, just for fun) available on Amazon.com by the end of February.

Meanwhile, in mid-January there’s the annual Aikido Bridge Friendship Seminar. This will be my 4th year participating, and I’m excited to see what this year holds. For the first time I won’t be at all 5 days, though! On Sunday I’ll be going to Mexico for shodan exams at Aikido Tijuana. That’s going to be a great time.

Then more writing, and continuing preparation for my 1st kyu exam, which is scheduled for March 9th. A friend and I will be testing together. That should keep me plenty busy!

Now, time to get out of here and head to the dojo!