action, the cure

Scared to do something?  Well, that’s not very Aiki now, is it?  Some of us try visualizing.  Here’s the technique: Sit there on your couch and visualize whatever it is you’re scared of, and see yourself doing it, successfully, over and over.  Do this until you’re nice and comfy and the fear goes away.  Then you get up to do it and… bitch out.  Why does this happen?  Because the nice little visualization you had on your comfy couch was a whole lot nicer and fuzzier than the reality of the situation.  The reality has teeth.  The visualization didn’t.  Damn.

It’s that initial fear that is the bugger.  I’m of the opinion that action is the only thing to cure your fear.  It took me 28 years to have the cajones to be able to do a front flip off of the diving board.  I remember that moment.  Nobody else thought it was that big of a deal, but I did.  All throughout childhood my friends did flip after flip after flippity flip into the pool.  I’d end up doing a half-assed back flop and bail out at the last second.  I stopped trying for years.  One day, a few years ago, I didn’t make a big deal out of it.  I just got up and… Did it.  Ever since then, it’s been a piece of cake.  I know, it’s nothing big, but it illustrates the point.  Now if I could just learn how to swim.

Scared of taking that first highfall in training?  Take a deep breath, focus, take some advice from your peers, and do it.  Don’t make a big deal out of it.  It’s only as big of a deal as you make of it.  Once you get over the initial fear, visualization can help refine and streamline whatever it is you were scared of and help you get better at it.  Before that…  Jump.


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interview with Miles Kessler

…incredible interview by Eagle DeBotton. Miles Kessler is a good friend of my teacher, Vince Salvatore.  He’s doing amazing things in Tel Aviv right now at the Integral Dojo, which he founded. You can find out more about him here.  Many, many great points covered in this interview including, but not limited to:

  • Unless a shift in perspective takes place, it isn’t Aikido…
  • Aikido happens in relationship…
  • The natural occurrence of conflict between people who, if not self-aware, results in a chain of action/reaction. We play with this relationship in training.
  • Aikido is Jazz.  You can’t predict it nor keep it in a box.

So glad to see him online more and more.  Looking forward to much more in the near future.

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so much…

There’s so much negative shit out there in internet land that, if you want to find it, you will. The news delivers stories as negative and gloomy as the status quo will take. The two forces of motivation behind all human behavior are the need to avoid pain and the desire to gain pleasure. People will do more to avoid pain than they’ll do to gain pleasure. Media experts know this.

I’m not sure if our brains were designed to take in that much negative info all at once. Maybe we were designed to be able to handle negative shit that happened in our own homes, communities, etc., but here in the information age, we know in twenty seconds when a bomb goes off half way around the world. We see it and we localize it. Fear sets in and we live our lives in an anxious, nervous, frightened trance. It’s so easy to get consumed by it.

In Aikido practice, my teacher always says to focus on principles. Principles are what’s important. With that in mind, it’s great to have a personal philosophy and moral base of principles that serves as a compass, if you will, helping with wading in the waters of information. Without it, you’ll be lost, swayed by public opinion.  Until you have this, research and study may be necessary. However, if you have a solid moral, philosophical base, you can work with whatever information comes your way. You can believe it, exclude it, criticize it, or do something to try and fix it. Once this moral compass is in place, you don’t need to go looking for negative information. Trust me, plenty of it will come your way without searching for it. This doesn’t mean to close your eyes and hide from it either. It kinda boils down to just a few questions:

  • Is this information fo’ real? A lot of it isn’t. A lot of it is. Check the sources.  If it’s not, drop it and move on with your life.  If it is real, the next question is:
  • Is it worth doing something about? If you’re not going to do anything about it, drop it and move on with your life. Sitting there bitching to people about it without any plan of action will not change anything (plus, no matter how interested they act, people get sick of hearing you rant after a while). If you do determine it’s something you want to do something about, the next question is:
  • What can you do? If you can do something about it… Do it. Without getting arrested. That simple. Write the email, make the phone call, start the movement, support who you want to support, discredit who you want to discredit, whatever. Do it. Get it done. Then, move on with your life.

I think the key to this post is, control the information, don’t let it control you. Live your life. Question things. Be skeptical. But don’t get consumed by negativity. Take care of yourself, your family, and your close friends and community. Make your art. See beauty. Be curious.  There will always be people out there who will try to screw other people over en masse. Always.  Be aware of them, make others aware of them, don’t be a victim, but don’t let them control your state of mind.

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fear – a gift

I wrote a post a while back about, what I called, the snail brain. I kind of threw the post together after the idea hit me, and I’ve been thinking of it ever since trying to clarify my thoughts on it. What I claim it is, is the phenomena where you override your lizard brain’s survival instincts when you should really be listening to it. I think us humans are unique in doing this. I love studying conflict and fear, and my research lead me to Gavin DeBecker, one of the world’s leading experts on security. This guy owns a firm that provides security to Supreme Court justices, past Presidents, many of the world’s most famous celebrities, and other high profile individuals. His firm also provides a lot of protection to the CIA. You know you’re a bad ass when your company guards the CIA. Yeah, the ones who kill and assassinate people around the world daily.  He guards THEM. Predicting violent behavior and dealing with fear is what he does for a living, and he’s the best. Anyways, I was watching some of his interviews when I stumbled on the video below. Especially, check out the segment of the video around the 3:50 mark where he talks about the woman getting on the elevator:

What he describes is what I was trying to say about the snail brain. This woman got a terrible feeling about the sketchy looking guy on the elevator. In her gut, she knew that getting in the elevator with that man was probably not a great idea. But, she overrode it, and decided to get into the soundproof, steel cage with him anyways. As DeBecker states in the video, no other animal in the world would do that.

My research about DeBecker carried me to this video below. This is a first, and hopefully a last, on AikiLiving, but… brace yourself… it’s an Oprah interview with him. Yep, I couldn’t resist, because the story he tells explains this point even further:

Kelly, in the story, overrode her survival instincts several times and it lead to her being raped. Following that horrendous event, though, the one time she listened to those instincts saved her life. As much as I bash on the lizard brain, it does have a purpose. Fear could be a gift. Not anxiety, but fear. In the first video, DeBecker explains how ridiculous anxiety is and how it’s affected our culture. We’re a culture based on fear, really, and most of it is not necessary. There are times, however, when listening to your survival instincts could save your life.

Gavin DeBecker is an interesting dude, for sure.  He has some books out about fear and having the awareness necessary to prevent dangerous situations from happening.  He also has several interviews online that I highly recommend.  Watching that whole old-school Primetime interview is worth it too.

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I just reached over to my calendar and slashed off another day.  It’s something I do every day so I remember what day it is, because I never do, but this time was different.  Usually, it’s just a ritual I go through. Mark off the day.  Woohoo!  Another day done, bring on the next!  No big deal.  Today, it felt like I killed a part of myself when slashing that box.  That little box that I so often half-mindedly mark off showed its true colors to me.  It screamed at me.  Usually it stays quiet as I slash, and the next box presents itself to me in all of its blank glory waiting to be slashed tomorrow.  Today, though.  Today I realized, at my core, that the blank box I just slashed signifies a day of my life I’ll never get back.  That box is dead now, never to return.  How many moments did I waste in that day which I seemingly marked off in a fraction of a second, and thinking back, seemed to fly by in reality even faster than that?  Waste on indecision, on repetition, on sacrificing myself for others’ opinions, on monotony, on negativity, on anger, on emptiness, on passiveness, on fear?  I must be getting older or something, I dunno.  Not sure how this relates to Aiki, but I know it does.  This story’s been told a million times.  Time flies.  How we spend it matters.  Spend it well.

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