Practicing Aikido in the Present Moment

I didn’t know it would feel like this.

It’s been two years now that I’ve been practicing aikido, and while there have been ups and downs, generally speaking it has been a relatively low-stress situation.

Now my 3rd kyu test is days away, and I feel as if I’ve stepped into a pressure cooker and there’s no way out except to go straight through. I feel like I’m in the womb, the labor pains are ramping up, and no matter what I do, the pressure is rising.

I notice a variety of conflicting internal responses to this upcoming initiation. On one hand, the desire to dive more deeply into practice; to run through all techniques and weapons katas five times a day. On the other hand, the desire to run upstairs, crawl under my bed and hide.

It seems as though I work to refine one technique only to discover that my execution of another technique has new flaws. Like trying to shore up one side of the sand castle while the waves just keep right on eroding what I thought I’d achieved. And the harder I try with my intellect to grab on to information and hold it firmly in my grasp, the more my smoothness falls apart.

This morning I remembered something that Mark Sensei talks about all the time: returning to the present moment again and again, such that every moment is meditation. As I practiced my weapons katas in the park, I focused on surrendering my intellectual need to remain “in control” of every movement and returning to the flow of the present moment.

And it dawned on me: What if I were to live in the moment during my 3rd kyu weapons demonstration? If the present moment is the only place where ease and joy reside, why not go THERE?

A neighbor walking his dogs walked up and paid me a compliment for my intense focus and dedication over the past weeks. Someone in a car shouted something at me as they drove by. Neither took my center. My practice took on an entirely new flavor. I was dancing. It was joyful and fun.

I didn’t know it would feel like this.

 

(featured image credit: pocket mindfulness. https://www.pocketmindfulness.com/live-in-the-present-moment/)

Tim started practicing aikido in June of 2016, at the age of 48. He is currently ranked 3rd kyu.