What is Unshakable in Your Practice?
In my meditation practice I have been thinking about the Japanese term "fudoshin" 不動心, translated as "unshakable mind." It is a term derived from the japanese god named Fudomyo,不動明王, literally “immovable wisdom lord” who was a fierce warrior bearing a sword for cutting through ignorance. The concept of fudoshin in meditation is to observe what is "unshakable" in your life. If you were to strip away the exterior things in our life, your job, your stuff, your relationships, your health, etc. what remains? If the pandemic this year has taught us anything it is to realize that much of what we thought was unshakable in our life is actually quite shakeable. So that has led me to the question of what is unshakable in my aikido practice? When you take away the physical dojo space, when you take away wearing a gi and hakama everyday, when you take away the contact of throwing or being thrown by another person, what remains? I think much of the despair that I have felt this year or that I have heard from students and colleagues is from attaching to these things in aikido practice that we have lost. But when we realize that these things can be taken away, that they are "shakable' we are left with the question, "what remains?" For me, I have found answers in 1) my own solo practice and 2) deep inquiry into the curriculum/principles of aikido.
I have often been surprised when I hear aikido people wanting to rush through warm-ups so that they can get to the "real" practice. But what if aikido warm-ups are actually the real practice? Aikido scholar, Ellis Amdur Sensei points at this idea in his recent interview at The Integral Dojo Dialogues when he references aikido being an incomplete art and that O Sensei wanted students first to develop "internal power" from solo exercises before working with partners. I have always been drawn to the aikido opening exercises and have found a richness in doing them during the pandemic. If you are interested in exploring this as well, my exploration has led me to researching the Ki society exercises developed by Koichi Tohei, the influence of Shin Shin Toitsu Do (Japanese yoga) on aikido warm-ups as well as Tamura Sensei's adoption of Jikyo-jitsu in his routine.
During the pandemic I have had the opportunity to take classes from teachers around the world from Mexico to London to Kyoto and Australia, to name just a few. I have had the opportunity to learn from an aikido instructor in a wheelchair, and a program designed for teaching aikido to the blind. I have also had my mind opened to issues in aikido like equity and race and ableism as well as seeing innovative approaches to making aikido accessible to diverse populations. I probably would not have expanded out of my usual routine or comfort zone without this unique time. For this, I am grateful to the pandemic. Beyond the plethora of zoom classes now available, I've also benefited immensely from exploring aikido principles via forums like Aikido on the Leading Edge and blogs like Aikido for Daily Life. And I can never get enough of Bruce Lee philosophy. In my pandemic-inspired imagination Bruce and Fudomyo were unshakable buddies.