Sunday, November 20, 2005

On a train

I’ve boarded a train that will take me to visit my sister in NY, on the train I saw some kids that reminded me of myself. I wondered what the future would bring them and what they might bring the future. These are my thoughts.

When I was young I used to get a pleasure out of offending or shocking people, in part it was due to my desire to gain attention. My hunger was fueled by the sense of loneliness I had as a kid, my mother laden with the burdens of raising four children alone was always busy and my father was absent, except for the occasional weekend visit. My brothers were so distant in age that my connection with them was tenuous and my sisters, were my sisters, and to a young boy they were not the ideal play friends and besides they had one another. Because of various situations my family moved around quite a bit, often I would be made to change schools, which made my ability to make good friends difficult. I was an ill behaved youth, and for a time I fell in with the “wrong” crowd because they gave me a sense of belonging and attention that I felt I had been missing. I noticed that they too were all products of missing parents and unorthodox upbringings. My history was the tamest of the group, their parents where drug addicts, spousal abusers, criminals etc… Often our conversations would revolve around how difficult we had it compared to others. In retrospect we often overlooked what we had that was good, like our health, opportunities for education, and the fact that our basic needs were met. Our society’s fetish with material wealth and extravagance has made people forget or fail to recognize the importance of the immaterial and mundane. It has taken me a long time to understand this. In my group of friends at the time there was an underlying sense of anger for not having a “regular” life. That anger manifested itself in antisocial and criminal behavior. I was fortunate enough to have had the seed of military service planted in my mind as a young child, so instead of diving into the acts of self destruction that my friends were doing I chose the path of military service. In the military I strove for attention and recognition, not by offending or shocking people but by leading as an example of military discipline, I conditioned my body and character to exude the desired military traits. But what was at the heart of this desire for attention? Was it a need to be recognized by others in order to validate my own existence, to affirm my uncertain choices, to quite my fears? I don’t know. What I do know is that it is fine to be recognized for doing things, but that the recognition should not be the prime reason for doing them. The sooner we can shed our desires for seeking attention and recognition for their own sake, the sooner we can focus on doing things that are genuine. What’s genuine? I think the answer to this question must be arrived at independently for it to be of any value.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Parting Thoughts

Below is something I wrote when I left my Aikido Dojo. For those who don't know Aikido, is a martial art that strives to achieve balance, like all things in life its purpose is that which the practitioner ascribes. A "Gasshaku" is like a training retreat or period of intense study, "Uke" is the person who is having a technique applied to, "Nage" is the person applying a technique, a "Dojo" is a training hall, and the word "Aikido" can be translated to mean "The way of harmonizing universal energy".

Parting thoughts I’d Like To Share

For the past 18 months I’ve been given a gift from each of my training partners. I cannot underscore enough the deep appreciation that I have for all of you. If I would have to categorize the most valuable thing I’ve learned while training at the Aikido Institute it would be the knowledge of who I am within the context of the Dojo, which in itself is a reflection of society. All of you have imparted knowingly and unknowingly lessons to me in patience, attention, communication and humility. Few training days have gone by where I didn’t realize or was shown how I could improve on my character. The technical aspects of moving with grace and power are what brought me to the door. They appealed to my lower self, the aspect of my identity that seeks to look good, have control and gain power. At first this was my only motivation. But something gradually changed. I began to recognize something that was of greater value in the daily training. This realization began last year when I was sweating it out and getting thrown around at the Memorial Day Gasshaku. I noticed that within the transaction between Uke and Nage something was being communicated. The information was transmitted in the various amounts (and absence of) tension, resistance and power during the execution of techniques (this is a poor explanation but I hope you get the point). I began to feel what I believe to be my partner’s animus, a clear sense of who they were at that point in time. I’m sure many of you have made similar discoveries. Over repeated transactions with the same people I began to recognize patterns in the information they transmitted, I believe that to be their true character. Observing this made me reflect more upon my own self and how I could improve my techniques to be something I’d be grateful to receive. The Dojo is a special place, it is unlike the rest of the city where we can hide behind insincere words and actions. On the mat sincerity can easily be discerned, not by the eye or ear but by the heart. Over the past 18 months my technical abilities have gone from rough to less rough, but more importantly I have been taught an invaluable life lesson.

Thank you all,