Facing a Shut Gate

Large-Closed-Gates-Empire-Mine

Sensei has announced that there will be an uchi-deshi program at our dojo, beginning in mid-summer [this was in 2011]. You can contact him for details (via the Aikido of San Diego website) if you are interested in participating.

It looks to me like a rare and valuable opportunity to train intensively, deepen one’s understanding of Aikido, learn to teach, test one’s own limits, and discover new possibilities, all under the guidance of a truly gifted teacher.

It also looks to me like a right of passage. Forging, like seeing combat, for a future military officer. A gateway. How one moves from casual student to serious practitioner.

Right now I’m not in a place to walk through that gateway. I don’t know if I ever will be. I hope, maybe, somehow, someday… There’s a little fear and frustration about that. What if I’m not able? What if it’s not there? A sense of loss. And there’s reminding myself that upset from thwarted intention just points to a commitment.

It’s OK, though. There are cracks to peek through, high places where one can see over, and a lot of space to explore on this side of the wall. For now.

[Added the next day…] And now I’m seeing that there is more than one gate. Not feeling so stuck on this side. :-)

“…
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).
…”

Very interesting article covering lots of potential reasons for play (rough and tumble interaction). Read the whole thing here: Lynda Sharpe, a wonderful blogger, in a guest column on Scientific American website on the role of play. Thank you to zanshinart for sharing this!)

Enjoying the first beautiful, quiet morning of a 4-day holiday weekend. No classes for a few days, but the two last night were so rich it may take 4 days for everything to sink in. The first offered a powerful new perspective on familiar techniques, and the second taught calm focus under pressure. I am so lucky to have such amazing teachers.

I’ve been much more relaxed, and really enjoying training, having discovered and let go of my energy on testing. Last night when Sensei was walking around watching our practice I was still trying to get it right, of course. But instead of worrying that he’d notice my mistakes when I made them, I was hoping that he would. He did, of course, and provided very useful feedback and clarification. So grateful for amazing teachers, and for being able to take responsibility for my own attitude about learning.

And now, a few days with my sweetie pie, family, and friends, puttering in the yard, time with the critters, and riding Rainy for the first time since starting Aikido.