The Way of Harmony

Each day of human life contains joy and anger, pain and pleasure, darkness and light, growth and decay. Each moment is etched with nature’s grand design– do not try to deny or oppose the cosmic order of things.
                      ~ Morihei Uesheba

If your heart is largen enough to envelop your adversaries, you can see right through their petty mindedness and avoid their attacks.  And once you evelop them, you will be able to guide them along a path indicated to you by heaven and earth.
                      ~ Morihei Ueshiba

The Way of a Warrior is based on humanity, love, and sincerity; the heart of martial valor is true bravery, wisdom, love, and friendship.  Emphasis on the physical aspects of warriorship is futile, for the power of the body is always limited.
                      ~ Morihei Ueshiba

After a few years of training in the Marines I noticed a shift in my thinking about violence, or at least my ability to conduct such.  I had grown.  Having revisited the trainings to ‘kill, kill, kill’ and looking into my soul I found that I did not believe in Pacifism (as narrowly understood and defined by so many) nor in out right violence as the means of solving problems.  I was well travelled enough in the world to realize that sometimes blows would come, yet had grown enough to realize that one mustn’t always strike. 

Unfortunately, I had no training in anything other than deadly strikes.  I knew knew how to break an arm, a knee cap, and other nifty tricks that usually ended in someone dead. This limited knowledge engendered a fear in me. For if I knew of only a few options, options that at the least hospitalized someone, and I got into a fight, I stood the very real chance of getting into a slugging fest.  And since I am no great boxer and when I get boxed on the head I tend to lose my temper and succumb to a violent, bloodthirsty rage, and noting also the natural tendency to not wish to lose a fight, I was afraid that should I find myself in a normal fight, I would be outmatched in mere boxing or wrestling and would then call upon skills to really hurt someone. 

I do not remember when I first came upon aikido.  Yet after getting out of the Marines in 94 I would occasionally visit a dojo to ascertain their spirit.  I could not codify what I was looking for but I felt that aikido came closest to offering it.  I tok a bit of Tae Kwon Do, getting a bit better at delivering punches from a balance stance.  Yet the punch/kick nature of the art (and others, such as Karate) did not appeal to me.  As I visited an aikido dojo I found in Houston I felt no spirit, but intead the training of technique.  It didn’t seem what I wanted. 

A couple of years later while at the University of Oregon I enrolled in an aikido class.  The sensei was what I was looking for and, along with rolls and such he taught us about kamae (stance) as and our inner stance.  I took two terms of it before I left for Iraq.  When I moved from Iraq back to Oregon and found myself in Portland State I enrolled in aikido there also, only to drop the class after the first session.  I felt waves of ego from the sensei.  I was not looking for techniques to throw people, but instead on improving my inner kamae.

After coming back from Iraq and dealing with issues around that deployment, a string of short relatonships, combat stress symptoms, heavy work and school load, and so on, I forgot about aikido save for every now and then it crossed my mind and I wondered about checking out a local dojo.

This last therapy session I was talking to my therapist about the polar opposites within me and how, it seems to me, that many approach me from one of those two opposites and I wish for a more unified vision.  We discussed issues of balance and harmony and, to illustrate what I wanted, I told a story.

In aikido there is no competitions, no prizes, no world rankings.  In another martial art there is the attacker and one strikes that attacker.  The aikdoist, however, has a circle of influence around him.  He strives to find his center in that, a balance.  There are a few stances to start from, such as left hamni or right hamni, a position of balance.  In whatever manner another person, or thing, enters our sphere if we are balanced and connected to our One Point, we can move in harmony with that which comes toward us.  We may roll, we may slide, we may redirect, we may move the uke into the immovable energy of the universe.  There is an infinite number of paths.  The point is not to strike the attacker, or to run from the attacker, but to be in harmony with the attacker.  When I practice a throw where one can throw another with the slight pressure of only two fingers I might practice it for two hours and not ever be successful.  Yet one time I was successful and the feeling of being in harmony was so revealed and undeniable that after throwing the person five feet, both him and myself looked at each other with wide eyes… we had both felt it.

After one session we students were clearing the area and readying to leave.  Another sensei had appeared and the two senseis bowed to each other in the middle of the mat and moved toward each other.  I’ve seen sparring between various ‘fighters’ before.  This was no spar.  This was no fight.  This was… beauty.  Each person was in harmony with the other person and for one move there was a beautiful harmony to it, giving rise to another counter.  Each sensei gave and took, moved forward and backward.  It was not about ‘him’ but about harmony and the harmony between them was the harmony of the Universe.  It was beautiful and inspirational to behold.

As I told this, tears filled my eyes.  I felt a longing to find that inner kamae, to balance my heart.  To be balanced I could move forward or backward as the time and place allowed.  I would not be forced to strike out or run from the world, but could be in dance with it.  And I wondered about this give and take with another who was of like mind.  To be in such a harmony wiht another person is a deep, abiding hope.  Yet this hope is itself not balanced, it is a pulling toward.  Not all movements into my sphere are to be pulled, but perhaps deflected away. 

There is distrust, hate, fear, where what is entering is pushed away.  There is loneliness where what enters our sphere is pulled within.  To be stuck in either is to forget the other.  To be balanced is to recognize the truth of that which we encounter, bringing it closer or expelling away, holding up or moving down, as harmony dictates.  To not in harmony is to act out of weakness. 

Many, many times I become furious.  My temper is quick and hot and I’ve lashed out coworkers, friends, ‘enemies’, fools and idiots and more.  I’ve suffered no stupidity to go without a complete lambasting, a pileof criticism to become heaped upon it.  With the examples of incompetence that I see whenever I am at work I’ve lamented over and over that my job brings out the worst in me.  I am not balanced.  Yet if it weren’t for this job it’d be another job.  It is not the job that affects me, it is my lack of balance, of harmony, of a good inner kamae where I react to what is around me out of imbalance.  Instead of harmony it is a butting of heads, a contest of wills, a test of strength.  Who wants that?

I seek a balancing of my kamae.  It is easier to find it while on hikes in the woods than in at work, yet there are times that it is there. 

And I still hope.  Though hope is drawing toward, I admit it is still there.  I hop for that partner who wishes to understand aikido in her life as I do mine.  I want someone who is authentic in who she is and how she is with me and with whom I am authentic.  That I could be in a relationship with someone in a manner of the two sensei’s on the mat is deep, deep longing.

So, right now… breathe… and find center.

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