Heart Opening Moments

BLOG of a Spiritual Stripper

A Follow-up on Forgiveness

The Little Soul and the Sun

The Little Soul and the Sun (A Children's Parable by Neale Donald Walsch) illustrates the purpose of experiencing darkness in order to find the light.

A few days ago I got an email from a reader of my blog. Seemingly confused, he wanted to clarify what he had read in the post A Forgive-ful Christmas. At first I laughed to myself because forgiveness is such a simply yet difficult concept that most of us spend our lifetime digging away the rough carbon to find the real diamond. Like formation of a diamond, we too can find our inner diamond by not shying away from heat and pressure but instead using them to find our true glow.

His request was simple: “Question please… In your writings you mention that during your martial arts, you are aggressive, attacking, and defending, yet at the end you BOW to your opponent as a means to say [thank you] for what has happened, could you please help [me] understand this logic? I am [in] sales and I go hard for the deals and sometimes, I don’t have a closure. I love your writing around this, I just don’t fully understand the complete meaning. Thanks, J.”

My answer might be slightly complex so I will do my best to stay true to my heart by sharing the heat and pressure of my own experience.

My first conscious experience of forgiveness was during a personal-development seminar with Christopher Howard. On stage, Christ illustrated a beautiful children’s parable called The Little Soul and The Sun. This story began with the Little Soul found that he is the Light. But he also wanted to experience himself being the Light. The only problem was there were no easy ways to experience himself when “there is nothing but the Light.” God had a wonderful idea to allow the Little Soul to experience being the Light by the use of darkness. “Then God explained that, in order to experience anything at all, the exact opposite of it will appear … You could not know Warm without Cold, Up without Down, Fast without Slow.” Little Soul then selected a special part of the Light to experience called Forgiveness but didn’t know how the simulation would take place. So the Friendly Soul jumped up to volunteer as darkness and do something really bad to the Little Soul on earth so the Little Soul can experience himself as Forgiveness. Initially the Little Soul couldn’t understand why the Friendly Soul would become dark to do something against his true nature as the Light to help the Little Soul. ” ‘Simple,’ the Friendly Soul said. ‘I would do it because I love you.’ “

With no conscious understanding of what had hit me, I bursted into tears before Christ can finish the whole story.

The next conscious experience of forgiveness I can remember took place during a conversation with a friend named Sandra. She confessed to me she had so much stored up anger and sometimes she can feel her chest caving in. She was dealing with a divorce where her husband left her for a younger woman. The anger was consuming her and whenever a younger beautiful woman walked by she would switch to her devil eyes glared with judgment. At the same time I was feeling guilty because my loving nature had caused some people to believe that the love I gave was more than platonic and I didn’t understand love enough to communicate it otherwise. And that became the catalyst that drove one couple to the edge of divorce where I was perceived as the angel who helped them to face therapy turned into the devil who nearly broke their marriage. The circumstance was the husband contemplated getting a divorce and he conversed with me intimately about his life-long feelings whereas the wife believed his emotional intimacy with me was an affair she cannot forgive and it broke her heart.

As Sandra and I opened up to each other played the parts of the wife and the other woman, we were able to see the hidden suffering in each other’s story. For Sandra her marriage was who she was. When she got married in her early 20s she had quit her job to take care of the house and a new baby. When the child grew up and left for college she no longer remembered who she was before her marriage. She spent her time cooking and cleaning while feeling more and more empty. The passion between her and her husband was gone and she projected onto him the anger she felt for herself. Secretly she wished she had done something more with her life. She was not satisfied being only the mother and the house-wife. She was mad at herself for giving up her career for the family. She eventually opened up to me and spoke responsibly, “in a way I’ve always dreamt escaping this jail I built for myself, now after the divorce I am finally free!” A year later after our conversation she had stopped blaming her ex for her dissatisfaction in life and re-entered the nursing program and became a nurse at the age of 50.

As for me, I saw the pain Sandra had to go though and I felt an intense sympathy for the wife who accused me of an affair and I forgave her for attacking me. In the past few years I’m slowing forgiving myself for being the Love that I am as I’m learning to communicate the difference between romantic love and platonic love. Because of the wife’s upset to my emotional intimacy with her husband, I am now protecting myself by my certifications in the art of psychological therapy occasionally working as a life-skills coach.

The third experience I’m sharing is of good humor. Similar to the post A Forgive-ful Christmas I was told to throw a full punch in martial arts training. As you know in martial arts one of us pretends to be the attacker so the other partner can learn the self-defense technique. Only this time I couldn’t throw a punch into the gut of a friend who I love very much. I didn’t want to inflict pain in cause the punch was not blocked. “Stop!” Sensei yelled out, “you must attack like you are really going to hit her.” I told him I didn’t want to as tears filled up my eyes. Sensei took us both aside and spoke in a softer tone, “if you only throw soft punches then she will never be able to learn. If she doesn’t move in time and gets hit, the next time she knows to move faster. Now train!” We ended up training with tears in our eyes. Nowadays I don’t take it easy on her and whenever we do hurt each other we scream out “ouch!” and after that we giggle together.

Looking back, I have learned so much from my past experience. I don’t pretend to be the expert in forgiveness but I have certainly noticed this: whenever I feel the emotions completely from a painful experience without getting stuck in the mode to blame the other, I move forward with a greater understanding beyond circumstances to kick-start my psychological healing. Finally I naturally see the good in the painful experience and always end up thanking the person for giving me the gift of heat and pressure so I can find my true glow. Did you notice the words in “for giving me the gift” contains forgive? Hmm, interesting…

February 16, 2011 Posted by | Aikido Wisdom, Emotional Freedom, Inner Growth, love, Self Realization, Tears | , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Aikidoka’s Shugyo

Aikido Demonstration of centerline

Aikido Demonstration of the Centerline: this centerline forms from the head, the hips to the tips of the toes acting as the structural integrity of the body. http://www.AikidoDelMar.com

I saw a translation of the Tao Te Ching (道德經) naming the Tao (道) as the Great Integrity. In my engineering experience the word integrity means ability to withhold structural properties. The Cambridge dictionary definition of integrity refers to the quality of being whole and complete, or the state of being unimpaired. In mechanical engineering we also stress the importance of structural integrity. In any kind of construction, we combine materials together to complete a working whole. And this working whole must withstand outside stresses being applied. If the bridge you are standing on is unable to hold its structural integrity, the whole would break apart and the bridge might crack or worse collapse.

What does structural integrity have anything to do with Aikido (合気道)? In my experience, there are three levels to Aikido integrity. First, the physical level – the strength of the body’s integrity can produce extremely effective techniques. In Aikido Shugyo, Shioda Sensei explored this effectiveness from the angle of the body’s centerline. This centerline forms from the head, the hips to the tips of the toes acting as the structural integrity of the body. We have seen demonstrations of a student standing on a sensei’s back leg without causing the leg to bend and the body to collapse. The strength of the body’s centerline is due to years of training where the body eventually learns to find and stays within its most productive state. For a beginner it takes longer for us to find our centerline and it is also more difficult for us to maintain it. On the other hand, a master might momentarily lose his balance yet within no time he can gain the balance back to maintain his center.

Second, the psychological level – the strength of our mind’s integrity can bring certainty into our choices and peace into our hearts.  Many of us spend hours per day planning and deciding what to do and what not to do. Many of us second guess ourselves and question if our earlier decisions were indeed the best for us. As you can see this can often bring added stress and wasted energy. According to the Harvard strategy expert Michael Porter,“the essence of strategy is deciding what NOT to do.” Basically in order know that we have made the right decision we must see that the decision does in fact align with our integrity so we can let go all the choices out of alignment with our values and beliefs. For example, I believe in doing our part to help bring-forth a green planet. Therefore I don’t spend my time looking at merchandises with extensive and unnecessary packaging and I find peace within myself by purchasing items that are green-oriented. The more I chose to be in alignment with my values and my beliefs, the easier it is to make the next decision and the more peaceful I feel.

Third, the spiritual level – the strength of our spirit’s integrity can reduce ego conflicts and cultivate harmony. Most of us have learned very early on to use our ego to manipulate or force a situation. We don’t listen to our intuitive soul urges instead we follow the logic of linear thinking. By using our ego instead of our spirit to accomplish goals, we have overlooked the fundamental reasons why we are alive. We are here to learn the right way of living that will bring-forth more love and harmony into the world as well as to cultivate our spirit to align with the longings of our soul in order to become purified into our authentic self – our natural structural integrity. Whenever we follow the demands of our ego instead of listening to the guidance of our soul, we drift further and further away from who we really are and we deteriorate inside out. The results can range from emotionally wounding ourselves and those closest to us to killings thousands of innocent people to achieve a stand of superiority. Hence it is essential to build the strength of our spiritual centerline and practice coming back to our loving nature whenever we are out of alignment.

Where does shugyo come in? In shugyo, the kanji characters are 修行. Some have translated 修 as “using a brush to strike away the dust that obscures the viewing of a person’s original elegance“. The combination 修行 are often translated into “conducting oneself in a way that inspires mastery“. To me these popular definitions have over simplified the ultimate intention of shugyo. The deeper meaning of shugyo really lies within cultivating oneself’s own state of wholeness and nature integrity while using that personal integrity to harmonize with Tao of the world.

I came across shugyo (修行) when I learned to meditate in a Buddhist temple at the age of six. We learned that shugyo is the life-long devotion to one’s Tao. It is often called kugyo (苦行) where 苦 means long-suffering. In my Chinese calligraphy training at the same time I learned to examine each part of the kanji characters to find deeper meanings. My grand-uncle the 77th descendant of Confucius showed me ways to decode the meaning within each characters as Confucius did in his study during the late 500BCs.

If we were to break down shu (修) into pieces, we will find the left side of this kanji represents one individual. The line in the center was explained to me by the head monk in the Buddhist temple as ku (苦) – the long-suffering obstacle the mind must overcome in order to find itself in harmony (合) with the origin of the Self. On the right side of shu (修) there are three layers of training to achieve purification of healing (which 修 also represents healing in ancient text). To me these three sideways lines represent the physical, psychological and spiritual levels of shugyo training.

The second part of shugyo 行 can also be broken down into parts. The left side is no longer one individual instead two people or multiple of individuals. The right side becomes 亍 which means to take small but deeply grounded steps. The whole character carries the meaning of traveling, to walk on the Tao (道 or Do). By seeing the combined effect of 行 we can tell that this traveling on the Tao no longer consists only one individual but must be achieved by sharing the journey with others. In a way, just like the principles of aikido, shugyo (修行) means first we must overcome the obstacles in order to heal and purify the self to become one’s original elegance by finding our own centerline then we can form relationships with others to combine our individual centerlines to form something even more powerful. Together, we can become a bridge that can function on a holistic unimpaired level for the goal of greater goods.

On the physical level, the development of our physical centerline will allow us to attain holistic execution of movements that results in combined energy of powerful techniques. On the psychological level, the cultivation of the mind in alignment of our truth will allow us to become less stressful and more peaceful. On the spiritual level, the purification of the self into alignment with the depth of our soul will allow us to become authentic and form impactful relationships with others. In the end, Tao Te Ching is indeed the Great Integrity and Jacques Payet Sensei is dead-on when he signed my copy of Aikido Shugyo with “Aikido is Life!”

To all the aikidoka sharing the journey of shugyo, this kind of complete devotion to our Tao is not for the faint of heart, we are walking on the road less traveled and that will make all the difference. Osu!

February 3, 2011 Posted by | Aikido Wisdom, Chinese, World Transformation | , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments