By Richard Strozzi-Heckler Sensei
Early in almost everyone’s Aikido training there’s a moment when you’re struggling with your partner to do the technique correctly and the thought crosses your mind that “if only they did their part right I could get my technique right”. The teacher notices your frustration and comes over to help and you gesture towards your partner and say something like “I can’t do the technique because they’re not…” The teacher stops you and says, “Your partner is never wrong”.
Accountability is a fundamental principle of Aikido training. The student learns from the very beginning of their training that the focus is on how you correct yourself, as opposed to correcting your partner. Your job is to deal with your energy, their job is to deal with their energy, and you work together to join your energies. This eliminates the crutch of blaming others, the situation, or the world for your shortcomings. Operationally this means bringing your attention back to where you have the most control-to yourself. We have very little control of others and the world. Once we manage our own moods, emotions, attention, and presence we can then interact with the world in a more responsible and skillful manner. In Aikido we call this centering and it’s the starting point for our physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
Centering is more than a bumper sticker or a good idea. Centering is a practice that one can engage in at any time. It’s practical and it doesn’t require any equipment, only your goodwill. Centering is a central requirement for anyone in a leadership position, whether you’re the leader of your family, PTA, or a large organization. When we’re centered we’re present, open and connected.
Present: There’s a sign from a local raffle that we put up at the offices of Strozzi Institute that says “You Have to be Present to Win”. This means being present to yourself, others, and the environment. We’re present in our bodies by bringing our attention to our sensations. While we’re living deeply in our bodies we become present to others and our surroundings by extending our attention into the world. We’re not lost in our thoughts planning the future or reminiscing on the past. We’re living fully in each moment.
Open: We’re open to possibilities. Instead of holding on to our own personal wants, desires, and hopes we allow ourselves to open to the greater potential that life offers. This mood of openness is not simply an idea but an embodied presence. Our body is relaxed without being slack, and vital without being rigid. Our heart is open; compassion and love are more available to us. We let our rigidity melt and open to our higher good.
Connected: Regardless of the circumstances and events that surround us we stay connected to our purpose and vision and mission in life. Purpose is not simply a concept but it is our true north; it is embodied and it’s what guides our life. We are our purpose. While we’re able to empathize with other’s point of view our ethics and morals remain deeply embodied. We know what we stand for.
First breath, Center in your body.
Second breath, Center in your purpose.
Third breath, Center in the Mystery.