On Aikido And Zen

I wouldn’t say aikido is getting easier, per se. I think maybe Sensei is starting with more basic techniques and building on them more slowly throughout the class. Plus, I’ve only been attending the Wednesday one-hour classes, so there’s only so much one can fit into that teaching block. At any rate, I feel like I’m picking up on things quicker, physically recovering quicker after class, and not being as terrified that I’m going to screw up.

We’ve been doing some techniques that require rolling, too. I haven’t gotten much better at it, but I have started to do it instead of wussing out entirely. At the suggestion of Taisho-sempai, I did about a dozen rolls by myself after class, and finally started to comprehend how it’s supposed to feel. I think. It stopped feeling so awkward and clumsy, anyway, and I came up on my feet at the end, so that’s an improvement.

After class, at Zen practice, I made a very, very important discovery: I can’t sit for extended periods of time in seiza (kneeling, sitting on my feet). I’m not sure how long our session of za-zen lasted, but my legs went past asleep to downright numb. When the bell rang for the end of za-zen, I physically could not get up. My legs had NO FEELING. I flopped around to face in the general direction of the altar, to which everyone was bowing from a standing position, and massaged my feet. They felt rubbery and detached.

You can probably guess that I didn’t exactly attain enlightenment during today’s za-zen session.

Immediately after za-zen, we were all to head out to the aikido mat in the other room to do walking meditation, so I forced my legs under me and balanced on lower legs and feet that I literally could not feel. I swear, this must be how people with prosthetics feel when they walk. There was no small amount of luck involved in my keeping upright during the short walk to the mat. After a little bit of walking meditation (which started out embarrassingly wobbly for me), the pins and needles came in, followed by normalcy. Finally. After several minutes of walking.

Never. Ever. Again. From now on, I sit on my ass when I meditate. None of this kneeling in seiza shit.

After an evening of aikido and zen practice, I feel much like I remember feeling after church. Calm. At peace with myself and the world. In tune with those around me. Except, adding the aikido into the mix, I also feel physically different. It’s like Sensei was talking about at the end of class today: training mind, body, and spirit takes more than just sitting and lighting some smelly-good candles. It takes effort.

I feel like Wednesday evenings are becoming my devotional to myself. Mind, body, and spirit.

3 thoughts on On Aikido And Zen

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  1. Remember, the point of za-zen is not to focus on achieving enlightenment. You must simply sit. Sit, and breath. Kneeling is difficult for beginners.

    I recommend the book “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind”. It’s really good and intended for an American audience, it’s the best book we read in my Zen class outside of the various sutras.

  2. Remember, the point of za-zen is not to focus on achieving enlightenment.

    True. I was just trying to make a funny. 🙂 What I should have said was that I was so uncomfortable that I was unable to concentrate on the breath, and was instead concentrating on my discomfort.

    I’ll definitely check out Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. I looked it up on Amazon today, and it looks like something I’d be interested in reading. Thanks!