how to mindfully end class

This post is a follow-up to last Friday’s post, “How to Mindfully Begin Class.” Enjoy…

– So, it’s near the end of class. You can probably tell because of your heartbeat and the sweat soaked up in your gi. There’s 10 minutes to go and your attention is starting to wane. Notice that and use that awareness to push through. Make the last 10 minutes more alive than the first 10 minutes. That doesn’t mean to train like an easter bunny on crack. That means to just fully be fully alive in each attack and each technique. Put full focus on what you’re doing even more so than when you weren’t tired. Step the focus up.

– You’ve done that and Sensei gives the sign (usually a clap or two) to line up. As you walk to the line, straighten your gi. Don’t be a slob in front of O’Sensei (who’s picture is usually located at the Shomen which you’re about to bow to). Control your breath, nobody wants to hear you panting as you bow.

– When getting into seiza (seated on your knees), again, sink into the mat (yep, this is a pretty consistant theme here). Build a strong base before you bow. Feel your physical center (approx. 2 inches below your navel). Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth sinking and relaxing more with each breath. Let your awareness expand into the peripheral. Feel the presence of your training partners, Sensei, and the whole Dojo. Be appreciative (even if you just received nikkyo for a half hour straight).

– When Sensei bows, bow in sink with that. Every Dojo is different. You know how yours do it, and you know the right way to do it. Do it. With awareness. Not sloppily while just wanting to get outta there. The final bow or clap (whatever your dojo does) is like hitting the ‘save’ button on the computer. All of what you just experienced in class is now stored to your hard drive. Yep, I’m kind of a geek, but you know what I mean. If a different analogy works better for you, use it.

– If your dojo ritual is to sweep the mat, this is huge. See my post here about sweeping. You’re not sweeping the sidewalk. This is the last technique of class and, from what I’m told, the Japanese take this very seriously. It’s a purification ritual. I know, don’t worry about the word ‘ritual’. I’m not talking about a human sacrifice here. Just something that’s routinely done in the spirit of a certain intention. This one in particular being a cleansing and harmonious thing. Sweep lightly and in sink with your training partners. Don’t smash the dirt into the mat or kick up the dust. Provide just enough force for the stuff on the mat to be moved to its destination.

See this post for changing etiquette.

– On the way out, give the Shomen a quick final bow. Acknowledge any training partners who may be trying to say goodbye.

– As you walk to your car, bike, bus, taxi, camel, or home, feel the fresh air outside the dojo. Look up at the vast sky and acknowledge your unity with the universe. If you’re nice enough to have been holding an ushiro kiai (fart) all class, feel free to let it fly. Be okay with it.

– Before going to sleep that night reflect back on the experience of class and make note of what you learned. It’s great to keep an Aikido journal for this. Log your experience. Don’t make a big deal out of it, just make some quick notes if you want. You’ll thank yourself years down the road when you go back and read them.

– Go to sleep acknowledging the privelege you have of being an Aikidoist. You are an active participant in one of the most self-enriching and powerful arts there is. Don’t take that for granted and fall asleep with an appreciation that it is so. Rest up for the next class.

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One comment

  1. …and to supplement this post as I did for the first, I’ll mention a few things, too:

    Exiting class for me is as much as regaining myself as it is coming into the dojo. For example, our ritual for sweeping the mat is important to me. It’s a focus on something simple and important to kind of “soak in” all that I had given to me and have given during class.

    The other, larger part is the methodical and practiced way I fold my hakama. I find my hakama a symbol of earned achievement, and I try to wear it as such. I’m usually the last to be folding my hakama, as it isn’t simply balled up or hastily folded. I inspect every crease, line up every angle, and repeat this, my own ritual, each and every time. I consider it a privilege to train, focus and have this moment after every class.

    As with the beginning of class, I don’t engage in idle conversation so much, because I’ve found it helpful to replay the lessons of the class in my mind.

    As Jonas said, exiting the dojo is kind of a neat thing to experience, if not just be aware of: things feel new. Like a nap, good meal or Friday after school/work. I love that feeling, and things seem a little more focused and simple for me.

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