If you’re like me you have a busy monkey mind. I can over-think as well as you although now I’m better because I work on myself and I know that a clear mind is paramount to me being who I am.
A distraction as clean as a whistle
Let me explain with an example. I’m working on something like my web site by making it neater Google loves it more and more something about SEO. I’ll be working away and an email will come through with a little sound which is clean as a whistle. This interrupts my train of thought and allows my monkey mind to step in so I go and look at the email. Of course, as soon as I do this I admonish myself, but it’s too late. My monkey mind took over my still mind.
We all do this, whether it’s looking at your phone, working on your computer, listening to the radio, or watching TV, we live in a busy ‘do it now’ world. And we love distractions!
But I know a clear, quiet mind is my basic ‘being’.That sound of an email coming through comes to me as clean as a whistle and it get’s in my way. If we examine that sound for what it is, all we hear is the sound and we react to it, with a thought. Then we do something, like read the email, look at Facebook etc.
You can create a clean mind
We don’t actually need to react like this because with a little practice you can change yourself.
Think about the sound. It’s there and then it’s done, it’s gone. A bird outside, for example. There’s the tweet and then it’s gone until the next tweet happens. You’re reaction to thoughts is the same. You hear a tweet, you become distracted and your thought goes to that distraction rather than what you were thinking about before the sound of the tweet.
Distractions make a monkey mind
I used to be able to have background music playing as I worked on my computer. I find it distracting now because it takes my mind off my current thoughts. When that happens I find the music frustrating. I don’t want frustration, I want that one and only thought and frustration dampens it.
We can’t give up out thoughts, that’s impossible. But what you can do is work towards the way humans were 300,000 years ago. Humans then just existed, they didn’t have all the distractions we have now, they just lived. They followed the days and seasons and had no reason to over-think anything because there was nothing to over-think.
Action Plan for a clean mind
Everyone is after a quick fix, that’s how we got into this mess. Your monkey mind very successfully wants you to grab the next quick fix. Unfortunately, that is not going to happen.
You’re going to have to put something in place to help yourself and I have an idea of what you can do.
Tomorrow morning set your alarm for 10 minutes earlier than you normally get up. At the alarm time, hop out of bed and go to a quiet place and sit. Sit quietly, no phone, just the ambient sounds around you. Now listen. Listen to the sound of that car, the sound of that bird, and whatever other sounds are out there. Do nothing else, except breath and maybe scratch an itch.
Make a habit of this by doing it every day because it’s that simple and it’s a pre-curser to meditation.
After a couple of weeks you’ll find you hear more and you notice your monkey mind is becoming a clean mind.
People quite often say there are two sides to every argument. That sitting on the fence is a bad thing because you are not committed to either side. If the glass is not half full it must therefore be half empty.
Then imagine the view from the inside of that glass. Being small enough to be able to stand on the meniscus of that fluid. The glass at your back, the water looking like an ocean spreading away from you. The half empty glass towering above you and a weird giant figure that looks exactly like you starting down at you.
There is always more than one point of view, with many subtle shades in between. Just because you can not see it or comprehend it does not make you or it right or wrong it is just the limits of your own understanding and creativity.
Adversarial politics and the polarisation of thoughts and people is also not the way. To know yourself is to know the truth of it all. The glass is half full and half empty simultaneously. Both statements are both correct and also incorrect simultaneously. There is no glass or fence it is all just a metaphor to open your mind.
Passionately neutral and doing aikido on a metaphorical fence. Balance is harmony between two equal and opposing forces.
By Lee Hampson
Are the nerves getting to you as you inch closer to your Aikido grading?
Or are you frustrated that you have not grading sooner?
Just remember that to be asked to grade by your Sensei means you have already passed. At Fortitude Valley Aikido it’s just a demonstration of your progression to your classmates and not a test.
When getting ready for an Aikido grading, it is essential to prepare your mind, body, and circumstances as you polish your techniques. Here are some suggestions that may help.
During your preparation period, you should focus on building your confidence and avoid exploring new variants of cool techniques on YouTube and the internet. Instead, focus on becoming more fluid and comfortable with what you have been shown. In class, you should practice in the same flowing, expansive, and connected spirit that you want to have during the test. Avoid fiddling with things. Let it happen. The variants will come with practice and time.
Know how the grading will be conducted so that you know what to expect. The guide book is on our resources page on the website. Surprises can really throw you off. You have trained for this, it’s just a demonstration, have fun. Also, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask your Sensei, Senpai, or Ukes. It is also polite to ask your Ukes if they would like to participate in your grading.
Visualize every day on doing the start of your grading brilliantly. You have already passed, and it is something really special. You could begin with knee walking to the center of the mat in a calm manner, head up, shoulders back, and breathing freely. Avoid entertaining the habitual pattern of imagining all the ways that you could mess up. Just visualize yourself doing your best. Be in the moment.
Visualisation can be strengthened by attaching emotional triggers, explains NLP experts. They note “with your Aikido exam on the horizon, don’t just visualise passing. Visualise how it will feel. What positive emotions you’ll experience when your Sensei passes you. These will help strengthen your visualisations and equip you for success on your exam day.”
Mistakes are a gift and if you make any it’s alright. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Whatever will happen in the grading, ensure you have it pictured in your mind. You’ll be nervous and fired up, bowing gives you a moment to focus. The little moments can work wonders in terms of a sense of ease throughout the whole thing. Focus on a positive and strong note and allow the rest to come naturally. Just remember your breath.
Only the black belt gradings have a written component like an essay, ensure you have it completed days before the big day. Don’t make your Sensei ask you for it months later. The same applies to gifts and thank you notes. Set yourself up to have a calm, early evening the night before your grading. Trim your nails, set your clothes/ clean uniform the night before, and fuel up your car to avoid rushing things during the day of the exam.
Also, ensure you pay the grading fees early enough. The dojo is a not for profit organisation and the fees go directly to Japan to help the Hombiu Dojo. The blackbelt gradings get a personalised Japanese Calligraphy scroll hand written by one of the Master Calligraphers.
On the exam day, wake up. Enjoy the moment. Your Sensei had at some point maybe a long time ago done this and felt the same as you. A little nervous, a little excited. Think of what he or she might of looked like 30-40 yrs ago.
Take breakfast right away so that you will have time for the food to settle. Get to the dojo early enough and warm up gradually, particularly if you are nervous. Visualizing on performing well. If there are techniques that you are still worried about, practice them with a classmate. If you’re expected to demonstrate weapons, ensure you keep them in a place where you can easily get to them during the grading.
Chiropractor Keith Maitland notes that you can incorporate good posture in your daily life to help with your posture during your Aikido exam. He explains “when you maintain proper posture you increase your chances of unbalancing your opponent and using chi rather than force. While many of us think we have good posture, we are actually leaning too far forward or back. By practising your Aikido posture at home you can prepare for your exam and increase your overall strength too.”
Ask one of your ukes to be the weapon master during the grading. Keep in mind that you’re well prepared to help with relaxation.
Know that you’re ready, or otherwise, your Sensei would not have asked you to take the Grading. You are ready as you can be.
You’ve done everything to support yourself in getting ready for your Aikido journey, so, now relax. Enjoy the moment.
If you’re looking to further your training or get more advice, feel free to
Witten by: Bob George
Respect and love your enemy until there is no enemy at all
Sun Tzu states in The Art of War (Chapter 3) “It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperilled in a hundred battles; If you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; If you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperilled in every single battle.”
At the moment we live in a time of relative peace. In a country far removed from a long history of violence and hate. That is not to say that it has never happened or will never happen but the great wars for the most part were fought away from our shores. Human nature can often mean the strong dominate the weak. The opinion of the masses out way the opinion of the individual. Right and might. Bully or be bullied.
To paraphrase Koichi Tohei Sensei‘s rules for Aikido Disciplinants “The martial arts begin and ends with courtesy and Even a one inch worm has a half inch of spirit. Every man respects his own ego. Do not, therefore, slight anyone, nor hurt his self respect. Treat a man with respect, and he will respect you.”, “The mountain does not laugh at the river because it is lowly, nor does the river speak ill of the mountain because it cannot move about. Everyone has his own characteristics and gains his own position in life.” Speaks directly about respecting the person in front of you. Wether they are your mother, lover, friend or enemy they are so because of the journey you and they have taken.
The bully or the enemy is to be respected and loved and not feared. Could you be someone else’s bully if circumstances are or were different? Respect for yourself is allowing yourself not to be consumed by hatred and becoming the hated and is about forgiveness. It is very difficult and violence and fear will always be a part of human existence. Acceptance, respect and forgiveness are virtues to strive for. Understanding yourself is the first battle and is the key to understanding others.
Fortitude Valley Aikido Student Guide P17 by Lee Hampson
It is said that there are four kinds of horses: excellent ones, good ones, poor ones and bad ones. The best horse will run slow and fast, right and left at the driver’s will, before it sees the shadow of the whip; the second best will run as well as the first ones does, just before the whip reaches its skin; the third one will run when it feels pain on its body; the forth will run after the pain penetrates to the marrow of its bones. You can imagine how difficult it is for the forth one to learn how to run!
When we hear this story, almost all of us want to be the best horse. If it is impossible to be the best one, we want to be the second best. This is, I think, the usual understanding of this story, and of Zen. You may think that when you sit in zazen you will find out whether you are one of the best horses or one of the worst ones. Here, however, there is a misunderstanding of Zen. If you think the aim of Zen practice is to train you to become one of the best horses, you will have a big problem. This is not the right understanding. If you practice Zen in the right way it does not matter whether you are the best horse or the worst one.
P38 Zen Mind, Beginner’s mind by Shunryu Suzuki