Spent the weekend up in Occidental, California for an O’Sensei workshop. This was organized by NSS and JWS and it turned out phenomenal! There was a bout 70 people who attended in all and although it was considered small seminar wise, the whole purpose of the workshop was the pass on what O’Sensei truly wanted to teach his students yet was only able to teach it to a selected few – in fact NSS was the only foreigner who accordingly understood what O’Sensei was doing. NSS was the one person who had spent a lot of personal time with the founder not only being with him on but also having been able to have the founder tell him what he believed to be the true purpose of Aikido and what he (Morihei Ueshiba O’Sensei) wanted to give to his students.
The place that the seminar was at was in beautiful Occidental, California. In the middle of wine country, nature is simply surrounding you. To give you a picture of how remote this place is; over 70% of the participants at the seminar did not have cell phone service – I was one of the lucky few who had it and even I only had one bar 50% of the time (the rest I had no bars at all!). The winding roads that dot this landscape are narrow, surrounded by mother nature. Just typing this post out in my room in suburbia California makes me miss the utter quiet and serenity of the Sonoma County forests.
For example: on the last day of the retreat (the 20th) myself and my companion Lee, a visiting Brit from London on a business trip to San Francisco, went into downtown Occidental for breakfast. My thoughts on the town went in this order: 1.) This is pretty nice and 2.) the mall that I work at is bigger than this street! It was that small.
However you really can’t beat the local food. I had my first Eggs Benedict here. Breakfast was so good I didn’t eat lunch!
Literally if any of you have seen pictures of the mining towns of the mid 1800s California. Simply take those pictures, add some cars, some electric poles, modern amenities and you have downtown Occidental.
There’s literally only a dozen buildings here. Other than the breakfast place that I went to Lee and I went to a bar on the second night and we found a very homey pub. The whole place probably is your average size Victorian house with the added pub touch. Apparently it used to a brothel back in the day! Gives a whole new meaning to bottoms up! *Grins*
The environment is very critical to how a seminar will go. It’s also crucial that not only are you very open to the material that’s being taught but also socially to the rest of your. I’ve been to seminars before, but this time around something felt different this time. This time I got the feeling that perhaps I should be more proactive in my social skills. So while I was here I went out of my way to say hi to people and to be more open to them. I just felt very good doing it, so I had no open problem shaking hands or having some small talk with my fellow Aikidoists who were here to learn the big “secret” of what O’Sensei wanted to teach his students and the world.
Speaking of environment, I stayed at a nearby dojo since I was on the independent plan. I was told before I arrived that I would be staying in the dojo, which happens to be a tent that is exposed to the elements because the walls and roof consist of tarp; meaning it’s not a closed-walled off structure. Fortunately the dojo-cho (dojo head) who owned the property had her house nearby that had a full functional guest room. Thus Lee, myself, and Allen (another practitioner from San Francisco) were able to sleep in proper house with heating, floors, rugs, and a bathroom. Unfortunately for me the couch was taken by Allen and I was regulate to sleep on the floor; which turned out to be on top of concrete! I did not sleep well my first night at the seminar!
Fortunately the second night was much better; I took the couch since Allen had left to go back to SF.
This is Part 1, in Part 2 I will get to what was actually taught at the seminar. I will warn you though this is some high level stuff that I don’t understand at all and am busy “walking the walk” as much as I can. I prefer it that way as oppose to revealing what is all intimately going on in my mind.