What Does it Mean?

So, I was doing some research on Aikido the other day, and I discovered something that totally changed my perspective on the art. I hate getting too caught up in terms, but this was really eye-opening for me, so please bear with me. Most definitions of Aikido out there claim that the “Ai” in Aikido means “Harmony”. This is what I’ve read and heard for a while. However, after checking out the wikipedia definition, I learned that it actually means “joining, unifying, combining, or fit”. This is different than “harmony” in some ways. Harmony implies duality. Being in harmony with something, we have that thing, and then we have us, who is in harmony with that. This is a powerful concept, but at a certain point, limited. When we start looking at the meaning of “ai” being “joining, unifying, or fitting”, we see how this implies a “unifying with” as opposed to a “going along with”. Now, please understand, I realize my search for the meaning of this term will probably take a lifetime. I’m not claiming to have figured it out, and really, I’m not quite sure if there is a solid ‘meaning’ or ‘definition’ of it. Constantly striving to define things can be futile, but when we experience awakenings of certain conceptual things like this, I believe they should be reflected on and used as tools for growth.

In clarifying the definition (I understand that a lot gets lost in the translation from Japanese to English and vice-versa), we move from a relative or dualistic perspective to a oneness or absolute perspective. This is, from what I’ve read and heard, where O’Sensei was. He was dealing with the absolute when working on Aikido.

Now the concept of Irimi (entering), which is a huge concept in Aikido, makes way more sense to me. To fully meet, join with, combine with, and unify with the energy is a much more powerful intention than merely going along with it (although going along with things is an important principle). It implies much more power as well.

Going within, we can take it to another level of meeting the energy of our higher selves, or best ability, rather than just going along with the whims of our ego. This can be done via meditation, contemplation, or perhaps while doing an activity where we can really focus on what we’re doing. Some people can achieve this through playing a musical instrument, others by writing, playing a sport, hiking, whatever. I do, however, think meditation is the best route to take in order to achieve this because you’re forced to sit with…yourself. No activity to get distracted by (our wandering thoughts are enough distraction). But that’s just it, in meditation, we’re forced to let go of those distractions and push through in order to achieve this inner unity. Way easier said than done, but well worth it. Anyways, I’m definitely looking forward to applying this new perspective both on and off the mat. Trying to go into things and achieve unity with them as opposed to just going with them, I believe, opens up the door to many opportunities.

 

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chase jarvis

Chase Jarvis is a world renown photographer from the great city of Seattle, and I stumbled onto his blog a few weeks ago. He’s really big into social media and has a live show where he interviews other artists, mostly photographers, but different kinds as well. He’s an incredible artist who lives and breathes his art with absolute authenticity and sincerity, and you can tell he loves what he’s doing by watching his shows. People in the industry know he’s one of the best out there, but he remains very humble (without being annoyingly so) and lets his guests have the spotlight. You can tell that he really is interested in what they have to say, and seeing the inspiration going back and forth between host and guest is really a powerful thing to watch.

I don’t know much at all about photography, but I’ve gotten so much out of watching his show just because of the creative discussion going on. Creative people speak the same language no matter what their medium of creativity may be. So, not only is his blog and show awesome, but what really inspired me was that Chase Jarvis ignored the doomsdayers who were saying the digital photography industry was coming to an end at the hands of digitally produced images, managed digital workflow, and electronic distribution. On the contrary, Chase argues that for the savvy individual who understands the evolving photography profession, the times are full of wonderful change and boundless opportunity. He’s totally embraced the change, worked like crazy, and you can witness what he’s done with his career and his art from his website and looking at his work all over the web.

Photography has endured a lot of changes over the years and a lot of photographers, from what I’ve read, have thrown in the towel and gave it up. As is typical with things that are changing and evolving at a rapid pace, this makes things a lot harder for the people who are used to the old way of doing things. If you’re innovative and willing to put in the work to stay up with the change and ride that new wave, chances are you’ll end up doing fine. I just want to give props to the guy for giving the finger to the critics and embracing the change of the industry instead of resisting it and giving up.

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declaration (revised)

This started as my ‘Mission’ page and has been an evolving idea. Now, you can see, I have changed the name of that page to ‘Declaration’ (I like the sound of it better). What started off as a personal Aikido journal has morphed into more than just that, and I thought it was important to take some time to update my intention with AikiLiving for whatever it’s worth.

In today’s world we all need to be artists at what we do, whether it’s bussing tables, driving a cab, being a parent, being a friend, doing road work, or running a business of our own. When I talk about art, I mean the act of affecting others in a positive way, in our own authentic way, if even a little bit.

Merely doing what we’re told and being replaceable parts in a machine isn’t enough these days, nor is it rewarding or fulfilling in any way. There is no safety in mediocrity anymore. We have to put ourselves into what we do, as well as in our daily lives, meeting each challenge in our very own, unique way. Doing this takes courage and insight. It’s definitely not the easy path. There is no instruction manual for art. If there was, it wouldn’t really be art.

We’re living through the death of the factory. Not just the blue collar factory, but the white collar factory as well. As useful as it may have been at one time in our history, we seem to be growing out of that stage of our unfoldment. Paradigm shifts such as these are usually not transitioned to easily and these times can seem downright scary and unpredictable if viewed from the old paradigm. As always in history, there is much opportunity among the chaos if we can keep our center and adapt.

What does this have to do with AikiLiving? ‘Aiki’ is a Japanese term which, loosely translated, means ‘engaging the energy (without clashing)’. This is a very powerful and practical concept and Aiki can be effectively utilised anywhere, really. I do study Aikido, and have for several years, and Aikido is where I draw a lot of my inspiration from. I will say that this is not, per se, an Aikido site. One doesn’t have to know Aikido to apply Aiki principles (although it can help). I am inspired every day by these artists who do this on a daily basis (whether they know they’re artists or not). I’m not necessarily just talking about the painter or writer, but anyone who connects with others in an authentic, meaningful way. People who act on things, start things, and engage life. I don’t claim to be an expert on this. I have my moments, like anybody, but mostly I’m just an observer and am happy to have an outlet to express this inspiration to others and at times hear their stories as well.

AikiLiving is a place where I, and others who may want to join the conversation, can express observations, experiences and stories about all things Aiki. This is pretty vague and open-ended for a reason. Common posts are typically general musings about art, conscious business, relationships, entrepreneurship, conflict resolution, personal growth, Aikido / martial arts training, books, movies, lifestyle, culture, etc. Some posts are just random thoughts about this general subject matter. Negativity is being mass-marketed and my intention is to create a space that highlights growth, improvement, art, and positive interactions and insights.

People are more intimately connected now than they ever have been before. Connecting with others in a positive way is what matters most now. No one is going to give us permission to do this. We need to take initiative now and start changing our world(s) – careers, businesses, environment, families, relationships, etc. – for the better, and we can’t wait for anyone else to tell us it’s okay to do so. Through the experiences expressed here, I hope AikiLiving can help others find their own true potential and enable them to spread their art in their own world.

-Jonas Ellison

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The List

A lot of people focus on things they need to get done. They make a to do list and check things off as they are accomplished. So much to do, so little time. Life becomes very task oriented and they move from task to task stressing out about the next one that needs to be done. Just bite the bullet and do it.

I read a great post recently from the great Tom Peters and he suggests starting a ‘to be’ list. With this ‘to be’ list, we think about how we are going to project ourselves onto the scene of the task. I see this as the intention or the juice we put into our actions which adds life to the to do list. Here we focus on the all-important ‘why’ instead of the ‘what’ which is focused upon in the above to do list. As important as having a to do list is, merely accomplishing tasks is not how we really advance in what we do. It’s who we are while we do them that can set us apart. In training, it’s not so much the physical application of the techniques, but our quality and direction of ki as we do them where we gain the most growth.

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Constantly Consciously Create

When are we not creating? Is it really possible to not be creating? Creativeness is something we can never stop doing. Our creative power is always turned on. When down on our luck, we may think that some negative force is acting upon us. In these times, it’s like our creativeness has escaped us. Thing is, it hasn’t. The force of creativeness is still there. When we realize this, we move from a position of hopelessness to a position of power. Once we consciously see it, feel it, and utilize it, now we can be in harmony with it. It’s kind of scary though. There is no off switch. This same power that can get us out of a rut is the same power that’s been keeping us in it. If we believe that we’re hopeless, we create more of that condition. We’re still plugged in.

Look how much of our lives we waste not consciously creating. What would it be like if we spent every spare minute working towards something? The dilemma is that our lives are short, but the more time we waste in the doldrums shortens them even more. What if that time spent in the dumps, or even just idle, was spent doing, or at least thinking of something creative? Here’s a great essay written by Lucius Annaeus Seneca called “On The Shortness of Life” which sparked this thought for me.

The principle that comes to mind is when we work on the 5th Awase ken (sword) practice. For whoever is stepping back, their energy and intention is always focused forward. The posturing in this practice is always forward, even though the feet are stepping back. We all have that creative resistance within looking to stifle our creativity. We must be diligent, recognize the enemy, and push forward into creativity.

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