A beautiful thing about Aikido is that it dwells in the higher echelon of emotion. Aikido at it’s higher levels is performed with grace. It’s taking an ugly conflict and moving in a non-resistant but highly powerful way with it. It’s being in full control and not in compliance to the whims of the lizard brain. It’s ultimate goal is taking an attack from the lower emotions (fear, greed, lust, etc) and transforming it into a peaceful situation born of the higher emotions (couragessness, acceptance, peace, etc.). What a great intention. How can this translate off the mat? I think a better question is how can this NOT translate off the mat?
We Aikidoists fall a lot. Some say it’s 50% of the art. If we don’t do it right, it hurts. So we learn to go along with things so it doesn’t… As much. At one level, ukemi (falling) can be seen as just that, falling. Learning how to fall. As we progress, we learn that it’s much more than that. It’s receiving. Receiving energy, receiving intention, receiving force, and receiving it differently from everybody. Ron’s probably going to have different technique than Chris, so I have to adapt.
When we really look into it, Ukemi is also in applying the technique. We’re still receiving. Ron’s going to attack differently than Chris. This can’t be textbook. We have to feel it and be present with the energy, whatever that may be. Carried off the mat, we see the principles of ukemi everywhere. In a conversation, I need to be receptive to many different things on many different levels. I need to be receptive to the person(s) I’m conversing with. I need to be receptive if they come up with something out of left field that I wasn’t expecting. I need to be receptive if they take something I say differently than I may have thought they would. I need to be receptive to my intention and possibly changing direction as we go along. I need to be receptive to my emotions throughout the conversation and aware of how to handle them (the other person can feel them even if I don’t verbally express exactly what they are). I need to be receptive to any others that may possibly be joining the conversation. Okay, I’ll stop now. I could go on. Bottom line is ukemi is everything. Now we see ukemi going from 50% of the situation to 100%. Learning to take good ukemi is time not wasted.
Look at how much information is out there today. Start to type in a Google search, and the answer is there in front of us before we even finish typing it. I heard the other day that more content on the internet is created daily than was created between the year 1300 AD and 2000 (Something like that, excuse me if I’m off by a few years, Google isn’t finding it now.). More video is uploaded to Youtube in 60 days than all of the television networks broadcasted in 60 years (http://mashable.com/2011/02/19/youtube-facts/). Everyone has directions. Following directions is easy now. There’s plenty of them out there and we all have access to really good directions. Hence, following directions has lost it’s value. Most everyone’s doing it.
Making new ones is where the value is now. Sure, there’s a lot of other people out there doing it (see above statistics) but if you can write your own directions, it’s more powerful now than it ever has been due to the vast audience waiting for them. Following directions may be how we learn. At some point we have to step out into the unknown and just start doing something different. Figure out a new way to do something. Chart your own course.
We’ll never be done. There’s always unlimited opportunity for positive change and growth no matter how much information is out there. It just takes some metal to step out of the textbook and make new steps.
We have the three levels in Aikido that my teacher talks about. We start with static (textbook), then go into flowing (application), and then finally to unlimited creative techniques (creation). Takemusu, baby! Onegaishimasu.
Time is very valuable. From the time we’re born and the clock starts, we have an average of about 30,000 days to go. As finite as that is, it’s still quite a bit of time. Watching most of us race around like we do, you’d think we had about a week. Crazy thing is, while we’re going crazy, frantically moving on from one extraneous thing to another, we don’t seem to get much done. We don’t have enough time to do anything, it seems. Look how fast time flies, it’s already the end of October! Can this sad state be attributed to time restraints or to lack of focus? I’ve written before how we actually have ample time to do a lot of what we want and need to do, it’s just that we waste most of it worrying about running out of time.
I want to focus here on something else, but it goes along the same lines. I want to talk about attention. I’m of the belief that attention is more valuable than time. Of all the time we have available to us, where do we put our attention? As I stated above, I’d argue that most of our time is wasted on extraneous b.s. that does us no good. What if we were to just focus 100% of our attention on whatever task we may be doing at the time. What if we were to focus 100% on the conversation we’re having right now, or on the book we’re reading, or on the hike we’re taking, or on the customer we have in front of us right now? That’s the best gift you could give somebody, is your attention. Just because you may give someone a lot of time doesn’t mean they’re getting your attention. How much time goes by in the typical conversation before one of the two people involved pull out their cell phone and start texting or checking emails? Some people spend years and years together (time) but end up feeling like they don’t know each other anymore. All that time has gone for nothing.
How much of your attention is actually directed on what you’re doing right now? Are you directing your focus only on those things you want to do or only on the people you actually want to be around? If you have a job, is it something you can fully be present in, or are you just going through the motions hoping for a change? We who train in Aikido run into the same issues. Is our practice going towards improving ourselves, or are we just going through the motions? Is every ounce of our being into it when we train? If not, we’re robbing ourselves.
These are important questions and ones that I believe are worth asking ourselves. Life boils down not to how much time we have here but to where we direct our attention while we’re here. Not to get too dark here, but death teaches us this. When someone we love passes, how often do we regret those conversations that were rushed or spent on negative, wasteful subject matter? I know I do with those who have passed in my life. Attention is the most valuable currency we have. Lets Spend it wisely.
Think of how a thought emanates. I know it’s a shocker that I’m not an expert at this, but from what I’ve noticed, a thought starts off as something, and that something is usually an intention. That intention, from what I’ve observed in my life, is either born from love or fear. Those seem to be the 2 main drivers of the thoughts we have. Obviously, the more our intention stems from love, the more creative and productive we usually are. Most fear based thoughts are reactions. When something excites fear into us, we react and usually say or do something stupid, hurtful, etc., which we later regret (or not).
When we come from a place of love, it seems to come from a place of action and is more creative. Coming from a place of love takes initiative. To do or say something positive, encouraging, supportive, etc., takes action. During the most profound times in which we say or do something positive, we realize at the time that it’s usually easier to just hang back and not say or do anything. It takes some courage to offer someone a compliment, for example, or to help the old lady out with the groceries (I’ve yet to do that).
Just the other day I went to this coffee shop that I really love going to, and as I was sitting there, I thought to myself just how many people actually compliment the owner. This place has a pretty good local following and people clearly love it. The owner put her heart and sould into creating this wonderful atmosphere. How many people take five minutes out of their day and tell her how much they appreciate the risks she’s taken and the time and effort she’s put into creating this little world of hers? I’m guessing not many (hopefully I’m wrong). I’ve done it myself and I do it all the time. Every time I go in there, I tell myself that I should email her and thank her for doing all she’s done to enable me to have this experience. I never did it.
When we look at the flip side, how many people have complained that their sandwich was a bit dry or the coffee was a little too strong, or it was too hot or cold in the building? My guess is quite a few. Complaints are a lot easier because they’re usually knee-jerk reactions to outside stimuli. The ‘lizard brain’ assists us with these. With creativeness, we have to access a higher part of ourselves. So, I finally did it. It took me, literally, five minutes to sit down and write the owner of the coffee shop an email saying how much I appreciate what she’s done. I hope she reads it and it negates all of the negative b.s. that fills up her inbox. This came from a place of action. It took a certain amount of fortitude to do it. After I did it, it was like a rush, I gotta say. Spreading positiveness and constructive compliments are how things grow, and I hope by my compliment, I played a small part in that. Acting from love as opposed to reacting from fear is an exercise that takes time to condition for, but the effects it has are very powerful and is where true positive change is born from. Be part of the movement and act.