An interesting question was emailed to me by one of my students.

R. B. asked : “Do you have conversations with GOD?”

This is an extremely personal question not usually asked by martial arts students.   While I was a little curious as to where the student was headed, I don’t generally pass up opportunities to teach lessons in unusual  circumstances so this is my response:

Absolutely!  However, these conversations are usually in the form of messages or scenes that my eyes behold.  The beauty  in a flower, a hypnotizing sunset, someone’s commentary, be it a passage written in a book or magazine or the spoken word.  Sometimes it is a “realization” thought which comes to my mind suddenly or maybe gradually;  Watching a child in discovery mode with something in his or her hands and it can be any object like a simple box that a something was mailed in.

Is that what you meant R.B.?

Time to leave?

When is it time to throw in the towel and just walk away?  How much is enough?  Who wants what I have to offer anyway?

Many years ago my first instructor, Steve McKnight told me that “when you start to dread going to class, that is the indicator.”  He said “when that happens, when you start to feel like that don’t walk, run out the door and quit.  You owe it to your students to give them 100%.”

While I have not fallen to the level of dread going in, the shear joy of  looking forward to going, to reaching that high feeling of accomplishment when a student’s face opens up with a new “understanding” is not happening as it used to.  And while the joy of renewing old friendships at training camp has not diminished the camps themselves no longer excite me.  I know there is a likelihood that it could be my inability to train the way I used to, (the aches,  pains and arthritis of a 70 year old man) I suspect it may be more of a mental thing than physical. Anyway, I no longer look forward to it.

So, when is enough, enough? The difficulty is in the small details.  While I thought I was more advanced than this, the  small quirks of human nature have begun to irritate me. I have always felt that human beings should be more advanced than they are.  People do not consider other people when they decide to do or say some things and my patience has not grown as it should.  So I get irritated.

I’ve always taught that one of the best paths for personal growth is through interactions with others.  Richard Bach said in his book entitled ‘Illusions:’ “We teach best what we most need to learn.” However, it may be time to move in another direction.

The Solution? Maybe to drop out of martial arts completely the way Jim Lahue did. After all, my allegiance ultimately is to myself not any one person or organization.  Considering how I dropped the martial arts organization which I co-founded and walked away from the martial arts school which I founded in the sixties, it would not be too hard to do.

I have not made up my mind just yet.  But it won’t be long.

New mat

We recently put down a new mat; right on top of the old one.  We didn’t even the remove the old canvas.  But we did extent the mat from wall to wall.

What a challenge we encountered at 8:30 in the morning.  The new mat material is 2 inches thick, 6 feet wide and 42 feet long and covered with carpet material. In fact, it is a  gymnastics mat.  It came in 4 tightly rolled bundles. We knew when ordered that they would not fit through the door so we were four people strong.  (guest what, not enough people) We had to unroll each mat and snake it through the door, up the stairs to the second floor, around the corner, down the hall, through the dojo door then lay it down with chairs on each end for several hours to get it to lay flat.  Consider that process times four.  Two hours later we were done the bull work.

5pm that afternoon we started the process of fitting the 4 pieces together, cutting them to length and filling in the corners and odd nooks.  The joints are covered and held together with 5 inch wide velcro strips and fit very nice.  Just about the whole dojo joined together to put it down. Nice work, everybody.

The Future

The question usually comes up as: What does the future hold?  Then comes: Is there an answer?

Short version, Yes!

Realistically I may not know the exact answer.  However, why concern myself over what I cannot control.  But that calls up another idea.  Do we or do we not draw to us what we agonize over? And is that not an ancillary form of control?

The answer is both yes and no.  The truth is, most things we worry about will never materialize.  That said, consider this: We really do draw to ourselves whatever happens.  As I’ve stated before, most situations we find ourselves in are a result of what we did or did not do. Even though we may have agonized over some supposedly detrimental situation, it usually comes ( if it comes at all) in a manner or form we do not expect.

Getting to the essence of all this stuff requires no more than a simple and practical “thought” equation one must bring into play.

Learn from the past; Prepare for the future; Live in the present!

That’s all there is, there ain’t no more; just the eternal NOW!

Age and conditioning

I recently had a conversation with my senior student and best friend regarding his physical condition.  He is 60 years old and his wife commented about good he looks for his age.  He attributed his conditioning to 38 years of martial arts training.  Punching, kicking and all-around sparring, kata and everything else that goes with it.

We discussed some of our couch-potato friends and their lack of endeavor which seems to have enhanced their weight gain.  There has to  have been hundreds of volumes written on the subject.

What most of my friends don’t seem to understand is I pay very little attention to the prescribed types of food deemed “acceptable” to the so-called experts.  Naturally I don’t go crazy with my diet and there is discipline in what I eat and drink.   But evidently I train hard enough to burn off the effects of my sometimes poor eating habits.  Of course my body dynamics could simply be the result of certain genetics but I don’t think so.

And then there is the mind. But what does that have to do with this lack of fat storage, you ask?  To me, everything.  As we envision, as we believe, and as we perceive, so we receive.  We live in a fundamentally friendly universe  which we create mentally with our belief systems.  We do this collectively, all of us together.  Which is why I’ve begun to direct my consciousness toward peace and contentment.  And as an add-on thinking this way: “thin is in.”  What’s important however is this thought is directed inward, and it definitely is  not  something coming from the outside in.  I don’t work at avoiding outside influences necessarily, I just tend to ignore them. To work at avoidance is to burn energy needlessly.  And in approaching 70 years old in a few months, I can use all the reserve energy I can muster.

Age and conditioning starts in the head.  It starts in the head and finishes in the body.  What do I mean by that?

It also pays to think young!

Off the mat and into the OR

In writing the book “Stepping Off the Mat,” I had no idea the mental training and conditioning of Aikido would come in handy in a completely new and different direction.   To be completely honest I know all about the mental aspiration and preparation for surgery since I’ve had 4 major operations in my adult life.  I knew the necessity of relaxation in preparation for surgery I just did not realize I would have to use it during the  surgery yesterday morning.

Cataract surgery is done with the patient fully conscious, fully awake.  They place an IV in the arm for an anesthesia just in case of an emergency but unless something happens it is not used, which was the case yesterday.   I knew this before hand I just thought they would administer something to make me drowsy.   Nope, it didn’t happen.

I was told to stare at the bright light overhead which I did.  They covered up my other eye and placed a cloth around and against my eyelids so I could not blink and started in. Of course, they put multiple drops in my eye to dilate it in the  pre-operation procedure and gave me a valium tablet as a relaxer.

The Aikido training I applied as I was asked to relax.  It was difficult to do when I’ve never had someone fiddling around in my eye for the first time.  What added to the strange sensation is there was no pain just that odd little pulling and nipping.  The doctor must cut the membrane then cut and vacuum out the old lens and implant  a permanent artificial lens so the sounds are not very reassuring either.

I focused on the bright light and on my breathing.  It’s very interesting that I was not going back and forth between the two.  I  simply noticed my breath  as a background happening in addition to the light.

As I’ve explained to my students over and over, relaxation is the key, or ki to everything.  The actual procedure only takes 7 and a half minutes, but those 7.5 minutes seem like an eternity when you are under the knife.  Most fights never last that long.

I’m fine now, though my left eye has not yet regained its full focus.  No physical Aikido, no bending forward and no driving for the remainder of the week and not pressure or rubbing on the eye for two weeks.

Wealth

After Michael Jackson died Thursday, I went online early Friday morning and checked out Amazon.com.  It is amazing how profits and monetary considerations affect people. What I was looking for was the 1983 video, “Motown 25, Yesterday, Today,  Forever.”  What I found was $19.99 crossed out and a new listing of $129.99 for the collectors version VHS tape on sale. Now I find some listed for prices of $69.00 to $199.00

Today’s newspaper commentary headline shouted “Mega-wealthy survivors have never had it so good.  They were talking about the drop in prices for goods and services which we average folks have trouble buying because of salary reductions and/or layoffs.  It was also stated that the number of millionaires listed dropped significantly.  The super wealthy have no such problems.  However, wealth is relative as is everything else.

When you consider health, money may buy extremely good doctors’ care, but when you look at all the celebrities dying lately, money doesn’t seem to have helped much.  Michael had his own cardiac specialist right there in the house and it didn’t save him.

However, speaking of wealth, feeling GREAT is priceless! When I look around the country and throughout Kokikai, I realize that one cannot put a price tag on having a multitude of friends.

When I look at our dojo with Wilmington Aikido, Sanuces Ryu Jujitsu and Quiet Storm members I realize how truly blessed I am.

Consider this: I am extremely wealthy primarily because of my attitude, belief structure, convictions, dedicated martial arts principles and way of life.  It took me a while to get here.

Anyone care to join me?

What is Aikido

What is Aikido?  Why do we practice this art of throwing and neutralization?  To begin with, I do not practice for the sake of self-defense, nor have I felt the need to work on that aspect of life for a number of years.  Although it is true that we train through the medium of attack and defense, the art-form  and concept is realized mentally rather than physically.

Physical confrontations develop in accordance with misunderstandings and ignorance.  The higher a person evolves mentally and spiritually the greater the likelihood of a peaceful resolution of a conflict.  This can be likened to a math problem: when an equation is worked properly, the equation will be balanced on both sides of the “equal” sign.

If the attacker is one-half of the equation and the defender is the other half, the Aikido technique used correctly through mental preparation could be considered the equal sign. Or better yet, expericencing correct spiritual preparation one could avoid the confrontation altogether simply changing it to lively conversation.

Life is full of complex problems, trials and tribulations moving sometimes up and sometimes down.  It seems that sometimes we  will not make it through this world or ththat the world will not survive.  But then comes Aikido, these  simple movements.  And  while they may be difficult to learn – like understanding life’s complex problems – something happens; they really become nothing more than simple exercises designed to lift us up to another vibrational level where understanding simply happens.

And we realize that it is just life flowing onward.

Aikido is us dancing life.

Dreams

To those of you who are listening: If you think what you do affects only you, you are mistaken. All affects all!

Everything is interconnected and most of what you do is, to some extent, caused or brought about another action, be  it a person or an event.  Conversely, everything that you do is, to some extent, a “cause” affecting another person or event, sometimes singular, sometimes  plural.  If you notice I made no mention of this cause being positive or negative, not good not evil, its just an Effect!

You may have heard it explained as the “law of unintended consequences.”  Or, you really experienced it as something like this, ” I meant to do  ‘one little thing’ but ‘this’ is what happened.”

Society is a moving, living, breathing entity having a collective effect on itself. Please realize that this society, which is actually all of us, subconsciously sets each of us up to think and act in a certain way, which sometimes causes us to behave contrary to our original intentions.

The key to a satisfying life is to be more of a “cause” rather than being jerked around by relentless negative “effects.” The biblical quotations, “live by the sword, die by the sword,” and “an eye for an eye,” are for real. On the street it’s stated this way: “What goes around truly comes around.” All these statements revolve around that natural law called “Cause and Effect.”

This universal truth is always in operation.  Therefore I say this:

If there is a thing to be done, it is worth doing well and to the best of your ability.  “You can make it if you try” is not the answer. Trying implies failure, do it with intention.  Whatever you do affects all around you so Dare to dream… Dare to Dream BIG!

Is the dream complete?  Then ACT!

Sometimes I wonder! II

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if the world was without war.  Would the martial arts continue to exist?  As I see it, without war peaceful enterprise would allow for opportunity for all and there would be no need for crime and/or self protection, or as most put it self-defense.  What would I be doing these days?  What would you be doing?  Training or something else?

Sometimes I wonder why I feel this way.  Maybe my beliefs are a result of the my environment, those around me and the sum total of my experiences. I only know one thing for sure.   If you look back over my past blogs you will discern at least one principle thread.  You see I am a firm believer in the principle of “cause and effect.”  Cruelty, abuse, physical domination and hatred are all learned by children and taught by adults.  Of course, some weak-minded adults learn these applications from other adults.

For instance, ( this is no put-down on Joe’s comment) when Vice President Joe Biden commented on not allowing  his family to travel anywhere in a confined environment, he was severely criticized by the  news media and others for possibly damaging the travel industry. The claim was his words might cause a panic because of the swine flu fear.

Sometimes I wonder if maybe that childhood game we played years ago may have had too much influence.  That game was called “follow the leader.” How easily people are influenced by some idle commentary is the real cause for concern, not whether the lead is a proper guide post or not.  Why is it that many, many more will follow poor judgment or commentary and few follow good or great declarations?  Is it possible that negativity is less difficult than the positive?  Most people are too lazy to think for themselves and consequently fall into less than optimum situations then scream for help.  We are our brother’s keeper only up to the point where continuing makes him weaker.

As I was ending my book,” Stepping Off the Mat,” I made a wish: That self-defense become unnecessary and that society reach a level where the martial arts shall be taught for no purpose other than self improvement.

Sometimes I wonder.

Sensei Rick Berry’s thoughts on the martial arts in general, aikido in particular, and life at large.