The circle of life

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Wow. I think I’ve trained, maybe, six times since January 1, 2012. That’s 15 months back from today. Life got in the way, as it does sometimes, but this is all part of the training process, I suppose.

A lot happened, to say the least. Half of that time was spent helping my dad on a project he got funding for (which was awesome) which failed (which sucked), seeing his hopes shattered at the age of 68 of climbing out of the financial hole he’d been in for decades.

And the other half was spent seeing his health decline (going), caring for him during his bout with cancer (going), and finally, his passing (gone).

Not to get too bleak here, as this is not my intention, but it’s been a rough 15 months to say the least. It’s why I haven’t been writing here much. But to shed some light on this, the good news is, my wife and I are expecting a baby this summer. I’m pretty sure I’ve experienced the whole spectrum of emotion lately – from extreme anguish and depression to ecstatic joy and love.

Even though I haven’t trained much in the dojo, I feel that some of my toughest training days have taken place off the mat these last months. Seeing my father, within a matter of weeks, transformed from the man who once showed me how to drive a car to wasting away into a skeleton who needed my assistance eating and showering, among a myriad of other things I never thought I’d have to help him with.

It was like that sword coming out of nowhere that you have no choice but to sloppily blend with in whatever way possible in order to not be cut down by.

You have no time to fear what’s happening and all you can do is quickly find your center and move.

There were times I completely lost my cool, screaming at the sky to remove me and my family from this situation that we didn’t choose to be in – caring for a depressed man who only wanted to leave this world – only to calm down minutes later and realize how foolish a request that was.

This is life. The good and the bad of it. The high and the low.

And those times of screaming at the sky in nightmarish despair were balanced by those similar earnest, quiet whispers of thanks and appreciation for what is to come in replacing that lost life with new birth.

It’s amazing, really. I wouldn’t wish what I experienced with my dad on anyone, but I also wouldn’t change a thing. My dad is the one who introduced me to the art, giving me my first aikido book when I was about 10 years old.

I remember being mesmerized by the pictures of that tiny old man throwing those huge guys around the mat. I remember doing the ki breathing exercises in my bedroom (I was a weird kid, what can I say?) and feeling how relaxed and balanced it made me feel.

Although I couldn’t afford to sign up in a dojo until much later in life, it was the spark that led me to this path, and I’m forever grateful to him for igniting it.

Aikido has brought my shouts of anger and displays of affection from being directed at the sky to being brought inwards towards the center of my being, as I now realize that ‘out there’ doesn’t really exist.

I can only hope to imbue my future little girl with my lessons learned on the mat, as one is never too young to learn from a good old fashion Shihonage:)

The good news is, I can now look forward to becoming a father, and getting back in the dojo while writing more in this blog. Aikido has never left my mind during my time away. Once you find a path, it’s something you come back to no matter how far you stray. Onegaishimasu.

 

Thanks to  Triratna Photos for the image!

 

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Aiki Improv

I love our dojo.  I hadn’t trained in months except for a few sporadic classes here and there, but I was able to train the other night and am so glad I did.  It was improv night.  I saw the post for it on the dojo’s Facebook page and had no idea what to expect.  Vince Sensei had Michael Lewis, the instructor with our local theater improv company, Empire Improv, in  to guest teach.  It was awesome.  We did skits and drills that they do, and, I must say, it was very aiki.   I won’t go into detail about all of the drills we did, but there were a couple underlying principles I picked up from the class:

  • Listening – In improv, it doesn’t usually do you any good to think about what you’re going to say in advance because the effectiveness of the dialogue depends on the energy of your stage partnerin the moment.  You have to be fully listening, with your ears and intuition, for what your partner brings and use that energy to continue the scene.  If you’re in your own head thinking about what to say before the moment arises, it won’t mesh well with what’s going on in the moment and the energy will be thrown off.  I naturally tried to think about what to say a couple times and it froze the energy big time.  It worked out better if I was open to what my partner was giving me.  So very Aikido.
  • Always be moving forward – With the drills last night, I learned that once the energy stops, the scene’s shot.  You have to have such an empty mind to do this effectively because any thinking slows you down, and if you don’t say your line with the right timing, the energy drops and the scene’s done for.  If you are going to freeze, it must be intentional for emphasis.  You always have to be moving the scene forward and, in a way, saying yes to whatever comes up, no matter what.  Drawing back at all, freezing, or resisting is penalized with blank stares and a horrible stutter as you stammer out your line.  I know this by experience from last night.  Any hesitation is detrimental.  Again, so very Aikido.
Improv Aikido.  Brilliant idea by Vince Sensei, for sure.  Another great thing about the class was that my good friends Dan Messisco and Geoff Yudien stopped by on their way to Boulder, Co for a seminar.  Their first time training in Reno and they got to experience the hilarity.  The art of improv is definitely worth taking a look into for both Aikido and life off the mat.

 

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avoidance

As you go through your day, look around and see what kind of stuff flies with people.  Like this guy.

Stealing bikes in broad daylight in New York City.  Dozens of people walking right by.  No notice.  No concern.  No questioning.  Just blatant avoidance.  Nobody wants to confront the fact that there may be a thief in their midst.  Nobody wants to deal with the ramifications of possibly dealing with a violent criminal.  A lot of things could go wrong there.

The bike thief is one thing.  That’s obvious. Seeing the video made me think of all the stuff I avoid in my life.  We all have our issues.  If we zoom out a bit, we know there are things that are messed up in our relationships with others as well.  Our spouses, bosses, friends, baby-mommas.  Why aren’t they resolved?  Have we met the energy and handled it?

It’s not easy to do, but it just takes doing it.  Then it’s simple.  Thinking of this made me start with myself.  How do I carry myself?  Why am I not confident in these situations?  Why am I over-confident in these other situations?  Why am I poor?  What keeps me up at night?  There are usually plain and simple resolutions.  The reason we haven’t resolved them is the same reason that the people in Manhattan walked right by the thief.  We avoid them.  We don’t want to get messy.

It’s not really that bad, in most cases.  Our minds make it out to be way harder than it really is.  True, genuine self-awareness comes from slaying these dragons.

When’s the last time you met the energy and taken on an issue straight away?  Was it that bad?  How did you feel afterwards?  Does it get easier to do after time?  I’m curious.  Leave your comments below or email me.  Meet the energy.  Stop avoiding.

 

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resonance

Sometimes we find ourselves in a bad situation we regret getting into in the first place. If possible, of course, the best choice is to avoid bad situations. Sometimes this is easier said than done.

Finding yourself in a bad situation, it’s easy to panic and just do whatever is possible to get out of it. Usually, in this case, we reach into a lot of low level energy to do this. We argue, blame, fight, shut down, pop off, get frightened, get nervous, etc.

It’s easy to feel helpless when you’re in this spot. Just remember, though, one thing you can always control is your resonance.

What is resonance? It has to do with the vibes you’re putting off. It originates from your mental state. Ever walk into a room after someone has just been in a heated argument? Little different than walking into a room where someone has just finished meditating. This is all because of resonance. The lower energy vibrations from the argument exudes a lower resonance than the higher resonance of meditation. Animals can sense your resonance quite easily. Humans can sense it too, although some are more sensitive to it than others.

All it usually takes is a split second to become conscious of and change your resonance. High levels of Aikido are all about resonance. Moving beyond the physical, we climb up to the higher realm of playing with energy, or resonance. We all have this ability, though. Next time you’re backed against a wall and you feel like you have no other choices besides fight or flight, become conscious of your resonance. You’ll usually feel a slow, grinding, panicky feeling swirling around in your stomach. It’s kind of like shadows in the night, though. Once you become aware of them and shine the light of your awareness on them, they go away. Now you can consciously resonate higher. You’ll notice, after doing this, others around you will start resonating higher as well.

The key is controlling your resonance before a horrible situation manifests. Chances are, if you do this, you’ll find yourself in less and less of these horrible situations than before. It’s all about resonance.

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