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Through cracked, blackened memories
of unit dispersal
I face the impregnable wall

Dissident Aggressor
Sin after Sin (1978)

Aikido makes people happy, right? Why do I say that? What is happiness? What kind of state could we experience as happiness? What separates the state we find ourselves in during, and after the keiko, from the undeniably good feelings we get from most other things in the world? And why would I define the one happiness and the others not?

I believe that inside our mind we have a prison made of three impregnable walls.

    1. Memories/History/Ideas
    2. Emotions/Feelings
    3. Thoughts
Triangle Prison

A: Memories/History/Ideas; B: Emotions/Feelings; C: Thoughts. Image of the eye by WikiHow.com

I would define this triangle prison as the Ego. From inside this cell the Ego appears to be our person. We identify ourselves as those walls, because it is all we can see. From the inside, everything outside does not exist. We identify with our ideas, our memories and our history. We have our plans for the future built on that structure.

We have our head in the washing machine, and feel all the emotions without a reference point, and there is no choice in anything, because one function is triggering the next, and so on. We feel, we act by reflex triggered by these feelings, and we build our ideas from our history of earlier automated responsens of our own system. We have no perspective of the stuff outside our triangle prison. We identify with our emotions, because we believe our emotions are us.

The thoughts which appears in our head, with a rate of about ten times as many words as we can speak pr minute, we naturally identify as our thoughts. In my case there often are at least two speakers, or maybe more. And they are constantly arguing, more or less loudly, in my mind (maybe it is just me who is crazy?).

cape town 2011 (1) 191

The prison cell of Nelson Mandela. Photo by Elaine and Steve McDuff.

These three sides of the triangular prison of our mind are triggering each other, in all directions, and we will continuously be busy inside, with a constant activity, which is totally out of our control. We initially identify ourselves with these parts, because it is all we know. It is all we can see, at first. And all our “choices” are reflexes triggered by other reflexes, so we have no choice at all. We are a prisoner of this system, and we can’t get out.

One example could be something like a memory (from our history) giving us some emotion (guilt, shame, fear, anxiety and so on), which again triggers thoughts (arguments of how why we were doing what we were doing and why it ended up wrong), which leads us to new emotions. And from the new emotions we are maybe reminded of some other memories. And the circle goes on.

The situation could be completely different, but with the exact same constituents involved, although it has a different form. In a different scenario we have some idea of what we wish to do. The situation is the situation (which we can’t see in our current state), and there might be a challenge for our idea, and there usually is in life, and this gives rise to some emotions (frustration, anger, stress), which in their turn triggers some kind of thought process (putting the blame on somebody, telling ourselves how useless we are). New emotions finds fertile ground, and gives us a new objective/goal based on this history of “non choices”. And again we are stuck in an endless circle (or triangle) of misery.


Picture from Nepal by The National Trust for Nature Conservation.

The Prison Walls, History, Emotion and Thought can activate each other in any direction and they are extremely sneaky in going beyond our consciousness, having a disturbing, quite depressing activity, even when we think that we are asleep, destroying what could have been a blissful rest.

A friend of mine recently asked me about the aikido study. I did it pretty much every day for eighteen years, which is for most people considered a rather extensive education for any subject. However in aikido this is only the beginning. Some of my good friends have been on this road for fifty five years. She was wondering if there still are more to learn? For the ones on the aiki road it is obvious, but it is difficult to help somebody who is not doing aikido to relate to it, because most things in our daily life we learn for a specific goal. Most of all, to make money. We learn something, then we use it to make money. It is far in between the things which does not follow this nature. Aikido is one of those rare exceptions from this nature. The road itself becomes the goal. And the subject of the study is life itself, kind of, so there is always more to explore. Life is limitless.

However, thanks to my friend’s question, what was already obvious for me in an unconscious way, became clarified by, not so much the explanation I gave, which were very minimalistic, but by my curiosity and awareness finding it’s way into new areas where I had not put so much attention before.

The process of studying brings us in touch with the present moment. It might take many years to recognise it, but it is there in the keiko all the time. The present moment allows us to see the “little ants” crawling around on our little triangle in our mind. We see our memories, emotions, and thoughts, and their endless chatter, and mayhem, and drama, and misery, from the outside. We can see it as an outside observer. For a short time. Until we realise what has happened, and we are triggered to be proud of our achievement, which is an emotion, and before we know it, we felt that emotion and were immediately teleported inside the prison walls again. The feeling triggers thoughts, which triggers memories, which triggers other feelings, and so on.


Image from thewallpaper.co

We never have to stop the constant activity inside our triangle. Actually we can’t, and neither should we try (the more we try the more activity we will trigger). It is always there. However, we do not have to stick our head into that washing machine. At least we can take our head out sometimes, to experience the peace and tranquility, and serenity which exists outside.

This is a state which aikido keiko brings about, all the time, I think. At first we have no perception to notice what is happening. We do not only feel good. We do not only feel feel happy, like the emotion happy with our head in the bucket. We feel a blissful state of togetherness with our friends, and a state of beauty and peace, which is difficult to achieve in any other situation that I have experienced.

My theory is that one of the reasons why aikido makes people happy is that it gives us these little glimpses of the world outside our little prison cell. We have a small taster of the freedom. It does not only feel good. It also feels good inside our triangle of course, because our inner and outer worlds are naturally connected. We see the Universe. It makes us not only feel happy. It makes us happy!

Enjoy your keiko! Aikido makes people happy!