“The great attraction for most students of Aikido is the underlying philosophy behind all the physical training. Essentially, you can’t keep improving in the art unless you consistently work on yourself, shedding ego, preconceptions and built-in reactions. The great mystery and power of the art is that in order to perfect your self-defense against another person you must commit to transforming yourself. And constantly working on yourself leads to new moments of inspiration and self-perception. Like finding your feet on the ground.”—Jerry Zimmerman
Squibs & Blurbs
By Jerry Zimmerman
“I am alarmed when it happens that I have walked a mile into the woods bodily, without getting there in spirit.”—Henry David Thoreau, “Walking”
“Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.”—Steven Wright
TEANECK New Jersey—(Weekly Hubris)—(This column first ran in September 2014.)—“I have often walked down this street before; but the pavement always stayed beneath my feet before.”
Have you felt the pavement beneath your feet? Have you felt your feet while you were walking? Do you care?
I do. I care because I have begun not only to feel my feet when I walk but to also feel myself walking. This is big news!
And I don’t mean that I now think about how I feel while walking but, rather, that I have lately had the very direct experience of simply being myself, walking. Very much a first step (pardon the pun) to being present, in the moment.
I have been seriously pursuing a practice of mindfulness, of “being present,” for all of my adult life, with a wide range of results, most of them varying degrees of miserable failures. If it were easy to “be here now,” we would all be much different beings and the world would most likely be completely unrecognizable to us.
Why this is difficult and not a natural part of all of us, I don’t have a clue. But, no matter; how worthwhile would our lives be without the desire to be here to live them? Instead of daydreaming or having conversations in our heads about this, that, and everything, we could be moving along in life with our senses open and clear, directly experiencing our lives.
G. I. Gurdjieff, the Russian mystic, claimed we are all asleep in our lives, all asleep TO our lives. Even the most cursory examination of how I go through my life compels me to agree, as I have since my 20s.
So, I have tried to wake up. I have tried every which way. I have taken part in esoteric discussion groups; sat in various meditation teachings; practiced mindfulness while working; read widely in the field of realization and transformation; tried some therapy; stuck my toe into leadership programs; and I’ve trained in the martial art of Aikido.
I have tried to be sincere and committed while in these practices, and they all have helped, particularly in simply keeping alive that delicate pulse of desire for something more than my day to day meanderings.
Like everyone else, I require a strong and continuing reminder in my life to keep me pointing back to myself (even while writing this I reflexively take a peek at the latest football game!), and that reminder for the last 30 years has been Aikido.
Aikido is a body-art; a physical, self-defense training. I am a body person; I learn directly and most powerfully through my body. This art “fits” me. I have been constantly attracted to its training, always chomping at the bit to get on the mat and train.
So. Back to my feet.
The great attraction for most students of Aikido is the underlying philosophy behind all the physical training. Essentially, you can’t keep improving in the art unless you consistently work on yourself, shedding ego, preconceptions and built-in reactions. The great mystery and power of the art is that in order to perfect your self-defense against another person you must commit to transforming yourself.
And constantly working on yourself leads to new moments of inspiration and self-perception.
Like finding your feet on the ground.
Recently, while going from student to student during a class in my dojo, I suddenly found myself . . . on the mat, moving, walking. While aware of being in my school and teaching, I was more. The weight and motion of my feet on the mat was that of a living, breathing human, a human with a past, a present, and a future that were all equally important and all part of just this moment. It wasn’t so much that this was where I should be as much as this is where I WAS.
It was a very large and very calm moment to be grounded and alive on Earth as myself, moving along, step by step, part of everything and stuck on nothing. I was in Neutral—no good, no bad, no problems, no solutions. The energy of the earth came up through the soles of my feet and filled my form. I wasn’t on the planet, I was of the planet!
This extraordinary experience lasted for long, delicious minutes but soon . . . Boom! Back to my normal chaos, back to my mind churning and myself immersed in the “world.” This, of course, was inevitable, this returning to the standard-issue me.
But now I have a small gem in hand, this exquisite experience, and knowing its taste in my bones, I often attempt to come back to it, not usually successfully, but sometimes.
In those rare moments, being alive in the world starts at the bottoms of my feet.