The Duck or the Dog?

In the changing room, after the 2nd kyu test we had just sat through, Diego asked me, “So what did you think of the test?” It was December, my third month in the dojo. By then, I had discovered that class often left me at a loss for words.  Watching the examination,  the martial nature of our training was apparent to me for the first time.  I felt that in a substantial way, Aikido was a way into matters of life and death, of living and dying. Not that the practice itself was dangerous; but that the techniques were about something much deeper than form alone.  And I must confess that my initial reaction to that 2nd kyu test was a feeling of fear. 

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If You are Not Sitting...

If you're not sitting, the Sensei said, you're wasting your life.

That, more than dying and death, the pupil feared most of all. Too easily he imagined himself old and dried up on a bed worn out and sad under a threadbare blanket looking back--as the light dimmed and the warmth faded--searching through all the spent years and finding nothing of more value than a broken promise, a forgotten dream.

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It's All About You, But It's Not All About You

I've always been uncomfortable with money, especially asking for it. I come from a hard-working immigrant family and there wasn't a lot of extra income when I was young. And asking other people for money? Forget it. Every time the band fundraiser came around, I would go to the two neighbors who I knew would buy a tin of cookies without fail. The prizes for the student who raised the most never motivated me. In this area of my life, I had no problem coming in last place.

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Shugyo by I. Tirado-Flores

I’ve been working 36 hrs straight on this case, my body long past fatigue. I would drink coffee, but that would only serve to agitate an already foggy mind, besides the uneasy queasiness reminds me that my body is slowly shutting down, as I still the tremors in my hands. A defenseless little boy needs me to bring him justice, to show him that the world has compassion. He no longer has a voice, but maybe I can speak for him. As my mind wanders off, I take a deep breath and bring my attention back to my center. I have trained for this for fifteen years, this is my Shugyo.

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Training at the Farm by D. Hall

Last week I was lucky enough to be able to accompany Sensei and some other dojo members to Krissie’s farm on the edge of New Jersey.  When I’d heard about the trip I was eager to go along.  I spent a lot of time on farms and in the countryside as a kid.  Where I grew up was 10 minutes from the town centre and not much further to ‘the country’, although, on reflection, it all kind of overlapped really.

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On Pain - by Z. Ludescher

Pain comes in many forms.  There is of course physical pain, which comes in the form of sore muscles, stomach aches, and stiff joints. But emotional pain is common as well: sadness that accompanies loss; fear that shows up when facing a dark, unknown path; or guilt that rears its head when we accidentally harm the ones we love.

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On Giving

In the Buddhist tradition, the six paramitasrefer to six virtues that one seeking enlightenment or Buddhahood must possess.

Dana, or giving, is the first of the paramitas. There are many forms of giving, but I would like to mention three, and comment on them in relation to our practice in aikido.

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"I wanted only to try to live in obedience to the promptings which came from my true self.  Why was that so very difficult?"

-Demian, by Herman Hesse

Want what you have

In college, my voice teacher once told me a story.  There was a famous music professor who toured the country giving lectures to huge audiences several times a year.  Those who knew the man on a more personal level knew that he was rather reserved and timid, always preferring to stand outside of the spotlight, but when he was on stage, he gave the most impassioned speeches.  A colleague of his approached him once after one of these lectures and asked him how he did it: How was he able to transform himself into this other powerful, confident being. The man turned to him shyly and pulled out two small pieces of paper from his left and right jacket pockets.  In his left hand the paper said, “I am a speck of dust in the Universe.”  In his right, “I am the Master of the Universe.”  He went on to explain that he reads the paper in his right pocket before going out on stage, and he reads the other as soon as he’s off stage.  One to inspire, one to humble himself.

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