When the Internal Journey becomes the Outward Journey

[I edited this picture myself from an original photo taken by NASA]

There’s been a lot going on my plate; not bad stuff and certainly nothing dramatic or traumatizing. Yet I can feel my body, my mind, and my presence changing every day.

Over the course of a few months I felt that I had passed through a barrier of mine – an old one. Something had kept me in place – imprisoned me rather – in the past. Since passing through this barrier I feel as if I’m like a ship out in the open sea; far away from the safe harbor of my experiences and past and am out heading into a direction in life which I have no idea what to expect and what I would do when I do hit something.

It all so started in the dojo. Let me reveal to you (in the best possible way) how I’ve passed through my barrier with some background information from training.

*   *   *

I don’t remember when, but it all started one day when one of my Sensei stressed the statement:

Don’t ask what you should do, instead become a better level of yourself first. The movement will come later.

This approach to Aikido – and the training itself – was handed to him by the founder of the art, Morihei Ueshiba O’Sensei.

After some years in training, I started to let go of what I think the movement is and instead allow the my natural body-mind system to absorb what is being shown to me and allow it to be shown. I believe I addressed this in an earlier post when I said that I had problems with the need to control – the need to know the movement. I’ve learned through the past 3 years training that there is (according to my 2 Sensei) that there’s two things in training: mental and actual, or mindfulness and presence/body.

I’ll use the view of mindfulness and presence/body paradigm, since I prefer it. Typically when I absorb new information, it’s through the I/mind  – being mindful about the new information. From that point I would do the movement accord to how I perceive it through my mind. However that’s not how training has been done at my dojo. Usually this approach to movements were viciously corrected by this Sensei (or more accurately, Shihan).

The model is therefore, to be at the best level of yourself. With this type of body presence the movement/techniques will be naturally better. An example he would use often is:

You can have someone do a movement a thousand times, and they will still keep on doing it the same way – over and over again. [Only] when you get them a better level of themselves, then the movement will be better naturally.

I hope I’m doing my Sensei justice by telling you a big, big piece of the training that we go through. In other words, from my Sensei: knowledge of the technique is far less important than how we naturally we conduct ourselves during the technique.

Now you’re asking, how does this apply to my life outside the dojo? My answer is: a lot

*   *   *

You see, this particular Shihan was the head of the Esalan Institude for a good decade, so a lot of his mode of training has psychological applications as well as martial. And although I wasn’t around to know this but he is apparently well know around the psychiatry circles in this part of the United States as well. That being said I toke this type of training in the dojo and applied to my life outside of the mat.

Has my recent personal transgressions been a direct result of this type of training? Yes I think so! Even if it wasn’t or if I’m over-exaggreating then I’m cool with that. All I’m saying now is that I’m feeling this breaking down of the old habits stage, both on and off the mat.

Now does it mean that I no longer any problems? No, in I’m constantly having to deal with this controlling mind-aspect of mine constantly, and it is especially hard to recognize it when I’ve fallen back into my old training habits. For me this has included “life-habits” as well.

There are days where the colors and shapes of objects are a lot sharper than they are. There will be landmarks – highway intersections for example – where I have traveled many thousands of times in my life and never before have I seen them with such clarity and sharpness that I feel like I’m seeing life in HD format!

And all of this is from Aikido. As of today, I hope that my voyage into the unknown is only in passing. I have this uneasiness of where I am now – both in training and in life. All of my past experiences and viewpoints of training are being challenged now – namely in how I try to control things: the movement, the memorizing of techniques (that’s a whole different discussion), and how allow my own innate knowledge and intelligence of my body-mind system to come forward.

Definitely not your typical martial arts training – and I am immensely grateful for this. Till next time ladies and gentlemen!

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