Create each day anew by clothing yourself with heaven and earth, bathing yourself with wisdom and love, and placing yourself in the heart of Mother Nature. Your body and mind will be gladdened, depression and heartache will dissipate, and you will be filled with gratitude.
Morihei Ueshiba (O Sensei), from The Art of Peace, translated and edited by John Stevens
[A month ago I would’ve thought of this as some lovely idealistic vision, but it’s becoming my real daily experience.]
There’s been a discussion on AikiWeb lately, “Aikido Changed My Life!" about the ways one has been changed by Aikido.
I have been practicing Aikido for only a little over 6 months. Even in that short time I have had many experiences of not recognizing myself, more so in the past few weeks.
The changes I can explain are changes I have intentionally made – better fitness, weight loss, a more disciplined approach to some things at work and home. (I shared some of these in a post before my first exam ”Reflections at the First Milestone“, and will share more recent ones another time.) In making these changes my practice of Aikido is a piton* in the rock face – a source of support and safety that enables me to climb higher.
But there are many changes I cannot explain. I’m happier, more settled, less cynical, more focused. I’m more aware of the emotions of people around me, more willing to be open and vulnerable with people, filled with gratitude, deeply touched by kindness. I’ve grown, and watched others grow. Things that were hard are easy. I never expected this.
This path is taking me through some unfamiliar but breathtaking territory.
*Pitons ("PEE-tahn”) are those metal pins that mountain climbers pound into cracks and then hook onto to keep them from falling to their deaths if they slip.
I have been fairly comfortably going along, slowly, as an Aikido newbie. Working diligently and mindfully, but in no hurry. Plodding. No deadlines. Well, I recently passed our association’s minimum of 20 training days to test for the lowest rank, 6th Kyu. So I’ve been glancing with some trepidation at the dojo whiteboard, where names are posted of those who will be testing. Our next tests are on September 19th. I never thought I’d be in that batch. I thought maybe November (we have tests every 2 months, I believe). But I kept checking the board, just in case.
On Thursday I stopped by the dojo, just to drop something off, and a friend in the class turned and pointed at the board. Yikes!
I’m about as calm and even-tempered as a person could be, but I was really stunned/delighted. I actually ran to my car, grabbed my iPhone, and tweeted a photo of the board. (Yes, I am a geek.)
Here’s what I said on Facebook, and I stand by it: “I am here to tell you that the thoughts "It’s not *that* big a deal, and nobody expects you to be perfect at this level,” and “Squeeee!!! OMG, OMG, OMG!!!” Can coexist perfectly well in one mind.“
It’s the damnedest thing. My (very) rational mind knows that everyone who shows up long enough, and who can roll without killing themselves, tests for 6th Kyu. It’s like "graduating” from kindergarten. What’s interesting though, in the “watching my mind blabbering on” sense, is that I am really excited about it. Giddy. Honored. Kind of silly, but there it is.
I guess it’s been a very long road even getting to this point (including some challenges well before I ever set foot in the dojo). It feels just like I’ve been preparing for a wilderness adventure. I’ve heard stories and read books, learned some basics, gathered my equipment and supplies, gotten myself to base camp, met some of my fellow adventurers, and set up my tent. Now I’ve been casually invited to join up with the group at the trailhead in the morning.
I’m excited about what lies ahead, and determined to be up to it.