All or Nothing

by Talia Lugacy

I came to the Dojo hoping it would pulverize any habit I had to be heady or mental about practicing meditation. I came seeking some kind of experience, akin to meditation, that could tear apart any ability I thought I had to pay exclusive attention to the present moment. Tear apart, so that I might know with certainty what kind of ability this actually was -- what it is made of -- and how to possess it.

There's a tricky thing about living -- I've noticed in my infinitely limited experience -- and it's not new -- what you look for, you find. When you chase an image, you are acting like its shadow. Tricky, because I catch myself assuming that I know what it is I want. I am convinced that I already see and feel the contours and flavor of the thing I yearn to possess. So. That's not a real problem, until you really want to learn something.

In the brief space between being shown a technique and performing it myself, I discover that Attention is a state that cannot coexist with wanting, with searching. Either you are absorbed in the dynamic chase motivated by that thing you want to possess -- believing you understand, following what you see with your mind, giving yourself instructions on how to move; or, your senses are open to what is actually happening. If I really observe that pause, that preparation before an encounter, I see clearly that the two states do not, cannot, go on simultaneously.

This invisible and vague thing I am attempting to describe involves, in my own experience, a choice between taking it casually and taking it seriously. If I can observe myself - when I am being casual, in any aspect of life, it is because I am becoming afraid to be absolutely present. Some hypocrisy within is urging me to give a little less, to not be caught being painfully serious, to only be there 80, 90 percent. The absent percent becomes the happy difference my mind applauds when it stirs me to try again. So much for pulverizing my headiness. Hm. I have a private belief that's been festering for what feels like ever; and it is fed intensely by the atmosphere of the Dojo. There are no casual gestures in life. What you do, is you. Your word is you, your handshake is you, where you put your eyes and what you pay attention to, is all what comprises you. And there doesn't seem to be any part of that which is outside the realm of the absolutely magical and mystifying. With that spirit in my heart, it becomes impossible to approach training in a compromised way. For here is an art that actually creates sense and order out of impulses, a dialogue of bodies becomes their expression beyond thinking, formulating, groping.

I was fortunate enough through an uncanny series of miracles to be allowed and able to train intensely and daily, with no preparation whatsoever. The inspired heart tunes in at a level unrecognized by the casual hum of daily life, and the experience is explosive. I cannot see much into the things I know I don't know about -- it is not my place to comment on just how Aikido is challenging, for now I can only know that it is. What I do see is that to own it, to excel at it deeply, one's heart must be full of devotion, absolutely without compromise. It is from that center of affection that the necessary attention is born.