“Some people have a wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again, freshly and naively, the basic goods of life, with awe, pleasure, wonder, and even ecstasy.” –A.H. Maslow
(This is an article by our new author. She will be regularly posting from now on, enjoy!)
Everything is a gift. Each day of life must be lived as if you would never wake up from your sleep. That way, when and if you do, there can be no regrets and the minimum of unfinished business. I would think that even on a bad day when things are not going your way, one must be able to see the silver lining in there somewhere, don’t you? I am thankful to have come to the realization that everything that comes to me is to be considered a gift.
When exactly did the epiphany descend upon me, I do not know. But, its been with me for quite a while now. Maybe because I grew up in conservative Catholic school for girls. Maybe it is because I am a happy person by nature. Maybe, because Death and I have been visiting with each other. I have still to find out the root cause of this attitude, but I am glad I have it. To be able to look at everything as if for the very first time, or as if you knew you were going blind tomorrow, makes one appreciate every little thing, every, every little thing. Otherwise, all of life’s trials would have been too overwhelming instead of becoming opportunities for growth.
In Aikido, an attack is considered a gift.
I did not see the why of it at first. But, why yes! I see it now! An attack is considered a gift because it allows you a glimpse into the heart and mind of the attacker! To be able to understand him, to be able to manage and control him, one must have an insight into the attacker’s heart and mind. Being attacked lets you know the attacker’s intentions. How he feels and how intensely he feels about certain things can be given away by the attack that he gives. When you are a odds with one another, it is a given that the attacker would want to keep his demeanor as unreadable and as unpredictable as possible in order to gain the element and advantage of surprise. But if one were sensitive to the opponent’s attack, you take away this advantage by being able to read his mind and understand his heart . Being able to understand where he is coming from is the first step towards reconciliation, something we’ll have to get back to later. This does not only apply to Aikido.
It applies to verbal attacks as well. Everyone has met a bitch in the office, out on the street, in a queue for something or other. We have all been subject to a snide remark or two. It could have been hurtful, too. And I have been reduced to tears by some of them, until I realized, there is another way of looking at this remark…what does it say about the person who made it? Suddenly, there is a whole new way of looking at the things mean people say and a whole new way of reacting to and dealing with them. It is a bit hard, at first, to switch perspectives and try to understand the other person. Instead of looking inside yourself and falling into the “oh-poor-me, I’m a victim of this bully, (I’m gonna get you, you’re going down for this, you A – – – – – E!) ” role, you practice switching into the “what can I do to stop this person but make us both feel better” mode. It takes practice, just like aikido, not to resort to getting even or striking back in anger or in pride.
So, instead of looking IN, we practice looking OUT. We consider the other person. We look out for his welfare. Maybe, his day didn’t start out too well. Maybe today is his be mean and nasty to the world day because of what happened at home, on the road, in the past, who knows? You don’t actually excuse his bad behavior, but you become open to the fact that there are other determining factors presently not obvious to you, that could have made this person say or do nasty things. Considering this, leaves room for understanding and tolerance. It gives me that extra energy to be more observant and less aggressively confrontational. I don’t want that person to step all over me by being all nice and tolerant and understanding, but I do want to be able to do something for myself that will help him and me get over it and come away from it feeling better. (It, being the nasty remark or action.)
So, how to deal with it?
In Aikido, we practice many ways to deal with an attack. Sometimes, we step out of the line of attack, we tenkan, we deflect and redirect, we outbalance using our partner’s energy, we go behind, we pre-empt. We do all sorts of things to get us out of harm’s way but still be able to control the attacker and his attack.It is interesting that the Aikido we practice on the mats dealing with attacks is also applicable to other aspects far, far more alienated from Aikido mat practice. Here are some things to remember:
Dang! That right there takes a whole lot of practice! But when you are relaxed, you see the big picture. You avoid tunnel vision. Tunnel vision restricts peripheral awareness. Peripheral awareness is what you need to be able to deal with the other attacks in the big picture. Being relaxed, allows you to tune in to other things that might pose a threat or a solution to the situation at hand. Being relaxed gives you the ability to engage the other party by keeping you focused on a positive outcome. . Being relaxed also lets you move faster, respond quicker, and be in control better than when you are all wound up. Being tense tends towards a response more forceful than necessary.
2. Let him have his way, your way.
I know this sounds redundant and one kind of cancels the other out, but what I mean by this is: You know that he wants to hurt you. He can only pick one way of doing it at a time. He can only pick one direction at a time, one kind of attack at a time, so there is no need to worry or even think about the possibilities that might not happen anyway. Living in the present, we can deal with his attack one at a time too. And, since we do not want to expend too much energy on such a negative action, we simply let him go in the direction he wants to go. It makes sense NOT to dissuade him from an action he is already committed to. His commitment becomes his gift to you. Now it is up to you what to make out of this wonderful gift.
What makes more sense is to establish control that he never succeeds in hurting you, even if he does get his way. Letting him have his way your way means that you call the shots when it comes to letting him enter your space and how you want to open it to him. It means being able to speed up or slow down his attack the minute and the place you want to. It means seizing the opportunity to control his momentum, disturbing his balance, changing his direction and flow, so you can redirect him towards a more beneficial conclusion. It means that once that gift is in your hands, it is now up to you to make the most out of it. Do you enjoy it? Do you want to give it back? Re-gift it to someone else? It’s really all up to you what to make out of this gift, but it is all yours now, to do with as you like.
3. Maintain balance and remain centered.
There is only one person between the two of you that you can completely and utterly control, and that is yourself. You cannot completely and utterly control him, but you certainly can control yourself. Knowing this, empowers you to choose how to act towards this situation. To keep your balance and remain centered is dependent on your posture and perspective. Only you know what is more important to you now: Is it being able to make a quick comeback and bitch slap the other person? Is it being able to set aside pride and ego to be able to see, hear and empathize with what the other person is saying or feeling? Towards what goal are you working?
Being centered helps you remain focused. You might disagree strongly towards his remarks, but will it help you achieve a working, if not amicable, relationship with this person? How to disagree amicably? How to hear him and feel his pain without taking it too personally to take offense? How to formulate the steps towards meeting his needs and yours too? All these are dependent on your focus towards your desired outcome. Which brings me back to being able to understand where your attacker is coming from.
You don’t have to like each other, but you do have to be able to respect each other and work with one another. On the mats, we work with a partner.
Sometimes, you don’t really get along, but you have to work with him anyway. Your focus is being able to accomplish a technique or exercise given to you by your Sensei. Your differences are overshadowed because you both share a healthy respect for the teacher and the art. They become of secondary importance, or better yet, insignificant, so much so that you can practice very well with your partner, even if you don’t like him at all. In real life, it doesn’t go all that smoothly, but if we choose to follow this example, then there should exist that respect and that willingness to work together. Reconciliation is not a finish line oriented race. It is a never-ending road. It’s never going to end, nor is it ever going to be always smooth sailing. We, who choose to walk it, must be prepared to work on it at all times.
4. Let go.
Most people hold on to grudges too much, remember old wounds too well, collect old favors done a long time ago. I prefer to learn from them, treating them as hard-earned lessons in life, and then letting them go. Holding on too much to these grudges and attacks causes the soul to fester. Festering wounds tend to accumulate pus and infections, then these infections spread to other parts of the body, which is really not a healthy outcome for anything. As uke, we are trained to remain connected to our partners until it is no longer advantageous for us and then we let go. By letting go on our own time, we remain in control about how we roll, or if we choose to, fall. We remain in charge of our bodies, still the “captains of our fate, and the masters of our souls”.
Letting go, becomes, in itself, a gift of unburdening.
In letting go, we still have the options to get out or get back. It’s a wonderful aspect, which is why I wonder, how come it is the most forgotten aspect of all. Do we enjoy holding on to something that festers and makes us suffer? Some people I know still hold on to ancient grudges that actually have no significant meaning for their generation. There are ephemeral gifts and there are long lasting ones. Some gifts are meant for forever, and some gifts are meant to be let go so that these can be passed on and shared. Smiles are like the latter. Friendships and alliances, too, sometimes. People are the most important and the most fragile gifts of all. For me, anyway. If I made a list of all the people, events and things I consider as gifts, I might as well generalize them all under the heading of LIFE.
My gift to LIFE, in return, is to be able to live it in the best possible way.
(Please also see: “14 Aikido Lessons in Common Sense“)