November 3, 2009
by Kate Savoca
I wasn’t planning on doing class that evening. I had already done the morning class, and since it was only six weeks since I had given birth to Cormac, I’d been taking it easy on the mat. But, I went downstairs to get something and saw that three of the six students lined up were women. I ran back upstairs (Cormac in tow) and put on my gi. Coming slowly back to training after pregnancy and giving birth I see that I have missed the practice and also that I feel a responsibility as one of the senior members of the dojo to look out for the development of those junior to me. Recently, I have felt that most acutely with the female students. I bowed in to the class and put Cormac in his bassinet on the side; Sensei started with ki no negare techniques. About 20 minutes later, Cormac started to cry. He was hungry. So, I excused myself and went to feed him. Five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes passed and he was still hungry (anyone who has seen him recently can attest to the fact that he’s in the middle of a growth spurt!). I found myself watching the clock and hoping that he would soon be done. I wanted to get back to training. But, babies aren’t known for blithely following their parents’ schedules, and Cormac, as amazing as he is, is no exception. He did finish eventually, and I did go back for the last few minutes of class. But I was left with the familiar and distasteful realization of how nearly impossible it is for me to simply do what I am doing. My mind is elsewhere, racing on to the next thing. Even when I am in front of this miracle, this child, I can’t stay where I am! Will I ever change? This daily practice gives me thousands of opportunities to see this – again and again and again. In Aikido, Iaido, Weapons, Misogi, Zazen… how rare it is to have a moment in which my mind, breath, body are all here! But then there is another chance and another and another. One more strike or throw or cut or breath in which to try to actually experience something as it is happening. Of course, I can’t actually “try to experience” something – that sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? But I can make the effort to relax, to drop excess tension, to turn my focus to what is at hand. Perhaps then I can simply do what I am doing.