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I see my reflection in the window
It looks different, so different than what you see
Projecting judgment on the world
This house is clean baby
This house is clean

Metallica – Dirty Window

Tennis balls, I have heard, are a great tool for self massage. I have actually not tried this myself, but apparently by using a tennis ball, we can massage out a lot of stiff muscles in areas otherwise hard to reach by ourselves. I never tried it (probably should though), but I have heard from many friends that it works really, really well.

However, the idea of a tennis ball has helped me massage out some pretty disgusting knots in my mind, and my body, though. Well, actually the combination of my partner and the idea of a tennis ball that is.

We see everything through our window. Is the dirt inside or outside? It is hard to tell. The image is taken from pinterest.com.

When our partner is holding us, we are usually not restricted by our partner. We can always blame the partner for holding us in an incorrect way. Too strongly, too stiffly, resisting too much, fighting us. In reality we could just punch them in the face and kick them in the nuts, right? Where does these strange ideas come from? How can we think that our buddy, our most valued friend, who are holding on to our arm so that we can rid ourselves from our traumas, sickness and other things pushing us down in our lives, is the enemy? When we think about it it becomes really absurd.

The things which restricts us are many things. Most of all our wish to make short cuts. We have habits from the world outside the dojo, which in most cases goes unnoticed there. Like picking up a glass of water. We can do it in many ways being totally unconnected to ourselves, and we will never notice that something is wrong about the way we move our arms. We are allowed to move so in those cases so we make the shortcuts because it is convenient.

We imagine that we are standing on a balancing board. We give our partner our balance and get her/his balance in return. An exchange of balance. The picture is taken from physiosupplies.eu

However, when our partner is holding on to our arm. The shortcuts are unmasked as dishonest intentions. The partner will inevitably, even if they are trying to help us make the movement, reveal the “unclean” spots in our mind and body. The ego wants us to lift our arm, and we are used to move without a partner, most of the time, so we see this unfree nature of ourselves for the first time.

This is very hard for us, because we feel trapped. We have been trapped by this all our lives, and the partner is the one to make this visible, so of course it is easy to blame the partner for the problem. Easy, but not very productive though.

So how do we help our mind get free from this disturbance of the ego? Every time, even if we are aware of our problem, when we try to correct it, we replace the old problem with a new one, because our ego and wish to do something interferes with our interaction with our partners.

If we imagine watching ourselves and our partner, from the sky, like in a strategy game, it takes the ego out of our situation. The picture is taken from Starcraft. The first meeting of Kerrigan and Raynor.

When we try to lift and the partner holds our arm, we are tensing somewhere, and the feeling of being trapped are unconsciously making us tense that area even more. Our unawareness is invisible to us, and the more we search the more invisible it will get. We wish to lift the arm so our intentions goes up, even though we probably should have just as much intention down (which is very hard for us, as it is never needed when we lift the glass of water from the table).

I have previously mentioned some other mind tricks which has helped me take the intention out of the equation, leaving behind only it’s ego free shadow. However the last few months I started with a new one, which I use a lot for the time being. It is not better than the other ones, but different, and it helps me very much in some situations, and are less useful in others, just as the other images.

When my partner grabs my wrist i imagine that she/he holds on to a tennis ball. It is more or less the same size as my wrist, and somehow it appears to me as quite similar to holding a wrist. My arm is free and I stand a short distance away from my partner, and I observe the tennis ball in my friend’s hand. Then I connect my mind to the tennis ball, and I can feel that there are a lot of restrictions in the infinitely many axises around which this ball can rotate. I can now clearly feel that tensions in both my mind and my body are connected to these restrictions.

A tennis ball is a little bit like a wrist, isn’t it? Maybe it is just me. The picture is taken from Wikipedia.com

I let my partner hold on, and I leave all the weight of my arm in the grab. I am imagining the rotations and feel them all without turning the tennis ball. Without wish or intentions I am trying to make freedom for the tennis ball so that my friend can move her/his arm in the way they naturally would, if they could, if I would let them. First the tension lets go in my mind, and then in the body.

This usually goes through several steps where there are stops part of the way through the movement. Then we should stop and investigate the rotation axises once more, and find out which one is unfree, preventing the partner from living out the natural movement of her/his body and mind.

I use this image almost every time I practice tai no tenkan now. It is intriguing for me that such an easy trick can make a difference in how we think about the situation with our partner. Instead of focusing on the partner as our adversary we are shifting our focus to the conflict itself, without taking parts. I do the same when I am uke. I grab the tennis ball and search for the unfree rotation axises and release where I need to release to be able to follow the ball’s movements.

A chance meeting of friends in Dresden in June 2017. The picture was taken at Aikidojo Dresden by Tim Warkentin.

It is of course wonderful how we are cleaning up our body, and make it more connected and economical in it’s use. However, the most interesting part of aiki for me is the effect it has in cleansing us as a person from dishonest and impure intentions from our mind. I believe it is, over time, changing the way we think about different things, everything.

It is so easy to have an image blurred by our own situation. We see everything from our position. We want, we plan to, we will do, we think like this. And there is the others; the strangers; the idiots; the bad guys; and the enemies, standing in our way, right? Well these guys are probably thinking exactly in the same way about us, standing from their point of view we are the others; the strangers; the idiots; the bad guys; and the enemies, and we are staining in their way for achieving their goals. The brilliant idea of aiki, I think, is to take our selves out of the equation.

There are a lot of dishonest tricks in martial arts, of course, but aiki is not one of them. It is a way to create peace. The only way, maybe.

Picture by image.freepic.com

Enjoy your keiko! Aiki makes people happy!