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Like I mentioned several times before one of my main fascinations in the keiko is to study how situations affect our mental state, and vice versa, how the things we feel and our awareness about our feelings affect the situation.

I keep writing that aikido makes people happy. I strongly believe that it is true. However, sometimes we may get stuck in some side tracks which can be discussed back and forth if they are aikido or not, but they do not make people happy.

I like to think of the study of aikido, and of aiki, as a road. We can easily think the same way about our lives. There are many twists and turns on the road of life. I believe that how we relate to our own feelings about the part of the road which we are on at the moment determine wether we feel happy or not.

As an example, my own life situation. I will never have much money. I rarely have time for sitting down to eat. I always have to run and hurry either to work or to the practice. I have close to no possessions of any worth. I have made all my choices to maximize what is important for me: Aikido.

Now, if I started dreaming of nice cars, luxury apartments, smartphones with the price of what I make in a month, time to learn properly to play guitar, time for what most other people call life… The list could go on forever. If I started dreaming of all those things that I will not ever have I would become miserable and unhappy.

However, I have made my choices for a reason. I want to be able to do aikido as much as possible, because I love it more than anything else in the world. I feel happy because I have finally realized what I want and I am now very comfortable with the road I am on, even though I have none of the things normal people relate to being successful.

From the seminar (the Uppsala part) with Yamashima sensei in May 2013. Photo by Joaquin José Muñoz

From the seminar (the Uppsala part) with Yamashima sensei in May 2013. Photo by Joaquin José Muñoz

In my opinion it is the same with aikido itself. Our road goes where it goes. We can choose where to go at some intersections, but we can’t turn where the road goes straight. If we are dreaming of something which is not where we are right now we might end up starting banging our heads against the wall at the side of the road. On the other side of that wall there might be something which we might imagine would be possible, but which we at our current level will be unable to achieve. Maybe even our road will never pass that particular spot. However, there are nice things on the road we are walking also, right where we are at this moment. We might not see them yet because we are hell bent on that fantastic thing at the side of our road, on the other side of that impenetrable wall.

Lately I have been thinking a lot about awareness and control of our feelings. I asked myself if we could ever learn to control our feelings or if we have to be satisfied with forever becoming more and more conscious about them. I would like to separate our feelings into two categories: the ones that show us the right path, and the ones that blinds us from the path. What we feel gives us the information we need to choose the right path. If we think that we want something, but in reality, deep inside, we want something else we might go wrong. Maybe not wrong, but a longer and more difficult road than necessary. As an example we tend to tense up the arm, and particularly the shoulder, if somebody grabs us strongly. The feelings we have causes us to do exactly the opposite of what we need to do. However, hidden within is the information we need, but we are easily blinded by the fear of failing.

At this point I believe that we, over time, can teach ourselves to react differently to situations; being so familiar with the situation that we are not disturbed at all by the feelings which previously blocked our way to go where we want to go. However, I do not believe now that we can ever learn to choose what to feel and what not to feel. Trough increased awareness about our feelings we might be able to do what we choose to do despite our natural instinct to do something else. So instead of cramping our arm from fear of failure when somebody grabs strongly we feel the sensation of the fear, we taste it, we smile and release the tension in the arm anyway. Eventually, with training, we will of course not feel any fear when a good friend is holding our arm, but there will always be new people with new challenges. As long as we pay attention to what we feel we can still make the sensible choices, even if we have those otherwise blinding feelings. When we are not disturbed we can feel what is the right path.

I believe it is the same in life. We can’t choose what to feel and what not to feel. However, we can become aware of our feelings, and make the choices based on all the information we have available, including the things which appear to be hidden inside the maze of fear.

Tai no tenkan with Classe at the roof tops of La Pedrera in Barcelona in August 2013. Photo by Katarina Gullberg

Tai no tenkan with Classe at the roof tops of La Pedrera in Barcelona in August 2013. Photo by Katarina Gullberg

Sometimes our ego can makes us feel miserable. We expect something unrealistic and it does not happen the way we expect so we get disappointed. The instructor has made a general plan for the practice. Some restrictions comes from the dojo itself and the number of participants with respect to the area of the tatami. Other restrictions comes from our training partner. We can’t control how the practice will be no matter what we do. If we expect something else than what we will get we will not become happy. Also, if we have too much faith in our own abilities and find out that we can’t do what we thought we could we will not be happy either. The natural reaction of the ego when we are not happy is to blame the training partner, and there it is. This is one example of one of the side tracks I mentioned at the beginning.

When I do my keiko I try to not expect too much what will happen. I actually always try to make my partner happy. I know that if I make my partner happy I will be happy also. So I adjust as much as possible to my partners so that we can have a happy practice together. If they want to practice in one particular way I would let them do just that, because I love to practice anyway. Nothing makes me more happy than making my partners happy.

At the writing moment I have a cold and a small fever, so I do not know if this post will make any sense when the fever is gone. However, right now I am struggling with my own feelings. I want to practise aikido. I can’t practise because I am sick today. So today I will have to appreciate the part of the road I am on in aikido and in life: to become more aware of the pain of having to sit writing a blog post and watching YouTube videos while my friends are having fun doing it for real. I can’t learn how not to feel, but by being conscious about my feelings I can become, if not happy, more content with my own situation. The cold will pass, soon.

Tai no tenkan with Katarina at a balcony in the tower of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, August 2013. Photo by Katarina Gullberg.

Tai no tenkan with Katarina at a balcony in one of the towers of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, August 2013. Photo by Katarina Gullberg.

Enjoy your keiko. Aikido makes people happy!