Practice in life

In my life I have multiple practices I try to use regularly in an effort to create the calm, peaceful place in which I want to live.  I sit, I write in my journal, and I do aikido.  Still my life, is full of chaos, pressure, and a modest but to me still distressing amount of interpersonal conflict. Practices like sitting and writing help me clear my mind, settle my emotions, and bring me to a calmer place from which I can emerge better prepared to face the various demands of my life at home and at work.

Aikido on the other hand, after warm-ups are over, seems to have another purpose.  Aikido, instead of helping me settle my mind as in sitting, or organize it as I do in my writing practice, always pushes me to act and feel certain ways independent of the contents of my mind. Aikido asks me to practice being in conflict situations, and once there moving and responding in a way I decided to before hand, responding to the changes in the moment but according to a predetermined plan, a technique or blend I decide and attempt to initiate even before first contact. Although this is difficult I have always intuitively known there was something in aikido that should I ever “get it" would be of value to me. 

Perhaps this is because work feels like randori a lot of the time, three persistent problems and a list of personal goals.  The goal where I work is to create new useful knowledge to solve questions to which no one knows the answers. So I create projects, get them funded, supervise the work, and then write papers. While fulfilling the expectations and solving the problems of co-investigators, and keeping my staff usefully busy, paid, and happy.  But, we are trying to do things no one has done before, so we routinely find ourselves facing new crises and problems. After a while many of the crises can be predicted, but some are less expected and bigger than others.  These are hard not only on me but on the staff who work for me. I find that since I started training, I don’t get as emotionally thrown by these crises as I used to.  But the people who work with and for me, the good ones who care if the research is done right, do get thrown by them as much as ever so I need to change the experience of these crises to I can keep good staff. 

Until recently my practice in learning randori had little to do with the multiple attack issues involved. My goal in aikido randori was to make each interaction with each uke, each 'throw’ have the quality I wanted it to have of firm control and gentle guidance.  I rarely succeeded but I got better at it so I’d count it as moving in the right direction.  Similar visualizations about the quality of the experience of crises at work would help some.  In randori, I would try to keep walking so that I could line the Uke up and take them one at a time.  This does work with problems at work to some degree, sometimes you can line them up and try to handle each one at a time with a much grace as you can muster.  But that’s not always possible either in class or at work where demands and opportunities often come on their own schedule and not on mine.

In studying randori now while I still care about the quality of each interaction, but I also find myself practicing to let go of and 'finish things more quickly’ not to hold uke to myself after I no longer need and to let them roll away earlier.  I’m also practicing taking a step or two even in tight situations to give myself more room to move before the next "attack" comes in and to move into each contact with uke.  Even a little bit of movement and space before moving in to start ‘solving’ each crisis or event, and starting a very little bit earlier can be a significant help. It may not change the outcome, or it might, but even when it does not it can change how the situation feels.  That can improve the quality of the interaction too. Similar efforts, seem to help in dealing with situations at work as issues there become even more frequent and more severe, and too often occur nearly simultaneously.






Robyn Anderson