Turning another Corner

My karmaic and emotional pots have gotten a heavy stir in the past few weeks.  The heaviest and most negative crud which has been burned and stuck to the bottom for years has been coming to the surface. In many ways, the artificial extremity and intensity of this environment effectively brings out the best and the worst of me, even though any pain or suffering is experienced voluntarily and pales in comparison to the horrific atrocities transpiring elsewhere in the world.  I’m not convinced that there is some special or ultimate “truth,” lesson, or epiphany that is supposed to come from some of these experiences; but I’m still left to reason, rationalize, or simply stomach what comes out of them during this time…

“Be like a slave” (Oh this word would make me mad as hell – because I am not a slave! Right? Hmmm…To what have I been in the habit of yielding myself?)

“If someone tells you to eat … (be creative here), do it…”

After Gasshuku last weekend it feels like a modicum of self-control was established in understanding and redirecting some of this negativity.  These are a few of my newest rationalizations for doing what we do to our bodies and minds:

1) A Sensei IS the dojo.  Their self is forfeited to the community and the vision they’ve chosen to embody.  And in that absolute forfeiture of self is strength.  If a Kenshusei can’t handle pressures of training, physical pain, demeaning degrading or completely disrespectful commentary from without; how could they ever hope to be self-actualized enough to stand unshaken from their core purpose within for the sake of others on “The Way.”  To choose to serve as the embodiment of principles; to be a forever-student of “The Way;” to live as an expression of the “The Way” itself; there is no room for a fragile and emotionally directed or egotistical “self.”

This is not a new understanding; but similar to many other maxims tenants and “truths” of my past Aiki Shugyo, I feel this year has been about “owning” and “testing” those understandings in a more profound way.  Like working through a geometric proof for some B^2=C^2+Zeta^2…  Wait, what does that mean?  The variables don’t match what I memorized years ago…  We have to be able to own and trust our core selves under pressures and situations both familiar and previously unforeseen.  Making connections with uke, being compassion and love, staying controlled balanced and hope-filled, these have all become easier in Ippan flavored Aikido Keiko.  But that now feels synonymous with being an optimistic and loving person when my personal and professional life just click along with no unexpected setbacks or turmoil – while those moments may feel good, they’re just short moments in a lifetime of diverse emotional experiences.  What about the not so easy moments…?

2) after 12 straight days of grinding keiko which included being subjected to unrealistic physical expectations, obnoxiously berated in-spite of doing your best, performing “punishment” exercises for failing to meet arbitrary and impractical demands; being condescended to through verbal and physical disrespect; but then, THEN, still choosing to create and maintain a properly balanced and extended kamae – that is how we use our bodies to test and train our spiritual strength, resilience, and expression of our core tenants.

3) Anger – This most natural emotion, if displayed, is the emotional equivalent of physically stumbling or falling off balance.  To rise to anger AND BE GOVERNED BY IT is to have betrayed your position/form/self to an aggressor.  Others can then see your individual weakness clearly and you as well as your community become vulnerable.  The only logical result is an escalation of conflict and then the Path has taken a different and dark direction.  This and other emotions don’t need to be suppressed, they should be embraced as a diagnostic reading of the environment in relation to core tenants, but they can’t be allowed to mindlessly govern our actions.  Even if I feel a seething  volcanic fire within, I’m now working to notice and redirect this energy without letting it leak into my posture, expression, or eyes.

Just… Osu!  This next waza is going to be balanced, compassionate, non-destructive, purposeful, fast but un-hurried, and focused; my kiai will be full and clear, but not gruff angry or wild; it will all be as perfect as possible for the sake of my Shugyo and “The Way.”




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