Heart Opening Moments

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A Ride to Mastery

yoga mastery

Rich rewards through a journey of step-by-step learning and growing - we call this journey MASTERY.

How do you balance a graceful yoga pose on a mountain top OR become a world class speaker? Think MASTERY. According to George Leonard’s book Mastery – to be good at anything, you can’t take a magic pill, but you can definitely enjoy the ride into a process toward mastery. What is the secret behind achieving your highest potential? The modern world tries to convince us we can achieve instant successes, find quick-fixes to long-term illnesses, or become overnight riches without putting forth time and energy. This is why we find ourselves impatient when we embark on a path toward greatness because unconsciously we started to expect quick results.

The bad news – it is very improbably you will achieve anything great without putting enough energy into the process.

The good news – you don’t need a special ticket to achieve your greatest potential, all you need is complete willingness and devotion to the path.

According to George Leonard that there are different types of learners. Some of us are dabblers – we learn things quickly but once we meet obstacles we give up and attempt our effort with something else. Some of us are obsessive  – our learning curve is also steep and we put ourselves into the learning through extra training, books and tools in order to get faster results but end up burnt out in the long run. Others are hackers – they also learn quickly and they don’t need extra information or instructions, they are perfectly happy to stay on the level they are, if there’s growth, then great; no growth no problem! Whereas the master learns quickly, she doesn’t stress when she plateaus, she walks forward with her practice knowing the rise and fall of her growth is immanent and she trusts learning happens at a deeper level and she will raise to a higher plateaus when she is ready.

What type are you? As for me… YUP! You guessed it right, I’m an obsessive dabbler. I’ve lived my live learning many different things but never quite became good at anything. I’ve been seriously obsessive to the point of finding multiple ways to push myself without ever taking a break. I was the super type-A who thought she could stand against the world with her unyielding will. Sounds familiar? Well, the devastating effect is my learning process put me into burnouts after burnouts. I was dead-tired and usually ended up quitting. Even though I know how to snowboard, surf, dance, sing, paint, swim, run, write, skydive, scuba, etc but I was never really good at anything. Doing one thing after another no longer gave me any fulfillment. I was chasing after testing the water without ever feeling a true sense of accomplishment.

The cure? Nowadays I take great pleasure working in the process toward mastery. Being on the path of aikido I realized that there’s so much joy getting into the depth of a Budo. I’ve also found great insights from the five keys to mastery in Leonard’s book. 1) Instruction – the preciousness in having a sensei or any other kind of instructions is we learn from other people’s mistakes and insights. Using an instruction book to begin any kind of practice can give us the foundation to further our learning in a structured manner. I remember the days I tried to learn swimming on my own. Let me tell you it was painful. Once I joined a team with a swim coach, I learned quickly and had more fun. It reduced the length of my plateaus. 2) Practice – duh! Of course in order to get good at something we need to repeat what we learned over and over again. We’ve heard the saying “practice makes it perfect.” Well, actually “perfect practice makes it perfect.” We have to put all of our mind, body and spirit into the practice and treating it like our life depends on it. Only when we focus our practice instead of practice mindlessly we can then improve. I’ve seen several kids in our aikido program that don’t seem to progress at all. That is because they are not present during their practice. The kids who always pay attention and do extra work after class, they enjoy the fruit of their labor quickly. 3) Surrender – what? Yup. Let it go. Let go and let God. When you are in a process, instead of becoming obsessed with “when will I get better” I have to let go and watch the process to unfold. The unconscious mind is always working even when you are not. During your relaxation times your unconscious mind actually integrated all the learning for you. So lay on the beach or take a nap. You will be surprised that tomorrow you might just graduated to the next level! 4) Intentionality – your directed thoughts, images and feelings will amplify your success. Athletes often visualize an event picturing themselves winning prior to the actual competition. In order for any growth to take effect, you have to really want it. Your directed intention will set your unconscious mind work towards your desired outcomes. 5) The edge – always be on the edge, push yourself pass your boundary of comfort, stretch a little. With each edge you will soon find comfort and reach a higher ground. Then push yourself pass another boundary again. The feeling of breaking through boundaries alone can be blissful enough to keep you going. With each boundaries you break through you will feel a new sense of achievement, confidence and drive toward greater mastery.

So friends let’s join hands and walk toward the summit to view a new horizon. We don’t have to quit in the face of difficulties, we don’t have to give up because things got tough, and we certainly don’t have to beat ourselves up toward restless obsessions. All we have to do is to be willing and live on the edge. All we have to do is be willing and practice to achieve our greatest potential – our own personal mastery.

(This is the speech I gave today. They liked it. yippie!)

May 24, 2011 Posted by | Aikido Wisdom, Choices, Inner Growth | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Fulfillment through Extension

Kihon Dosa Aikido Kids

Extension through Kihon Dosa (Aikido Del Mar kids during a Kids-4-Japan Relief fundraise demonstration)

Recently I’ve been working on extension in my aikido training. One Sensei told me to extend further while the other sensei told me that I’m over-extending myself. Confused, I felt more clumsy than ever. Instead, I began to watch for the missing pieces in my movement. I noticed that when sensei extended, his body was in perfect balance. He was rooted into the ground. The centerline was strong. He is relaxed. Nowhere was his body twisted. He also radiated this blissful joy from his center of gravity. The quality of this positive energy extended into his knees, his elbows, then through the bottoms of his feet and out from his finger tips. His center felt like the source of a supernova, giving off life by giving away the life energy within himself. Whereas when I extended, I either put too much weight on my front foot and lose my balance or I tensed up where my energy cannot flow through.

Ack! Aikido is hard. What is even harder is that I know there must be a mental block and I was determined to find it.

After teaching a morning aikido class, I found myself in conversation with a student. He was a teacher of A Course in Miracles (ACIM) and I often described aikido movements in terms of ACIM for his benefit. That particular morning my body was experiencing so much pain post my car accident and I instinctually contracted my movements. From the students’ reaction I realized I was out of integrity as I taught extension while I did the opposite. I said a silent prayer and relaxed more into my feet while trusting the extension will radiate through as a result. Holding onto that intention, I felt more peaceful and was able to calmly finish class. Afterwards the ACIM teacher wanted to give me some feedback. “Oh shit,” I thought to myself, “he’s going to tell me he can’t learn anything from me and I totally suck…” Holding onto my breath, I listened. To my surprise he wanted to tell me that he felt my energy when I guided his hanmi. That the energy from my body extended into his and for a few seconds he was able to completely let go his struggles and be in Divine Love. He told me how he had forgotten how real peace felt like and for the first time in a few months he found himself in Truth again. By Being in my Truth, he was able to find his Truth. By Being authentically within myself, he found his Being.

Wow! Profound. I was speechless.

“Only you can limit your creative power, but God wills to release it…. Do not withhold your gifts to the Sonship, or you withhold yourself from God! Selfishness is of the ego, but Self-fullness is of spirit… Being must be extended. That is how it retains the knowledge of itself. Spirit yearns to share its being… It does not wish to contain God, but wills to extend His Being. The extension of God’s Being is spirit’s only function. Its fullness cannot be contained, any more than can the fullness of its Creator. Fullness is extension. The ego’s whole thought system blocks extension…It therefore blocks your joy, so that you perceive yourself as unfulfilled. Unless you create you are unfulfilled… Your Self-fullness is as boundless as God’s.  Like His.  It extends forever and in perfect peace.  Its radiance is so intense that It creates in perfect joy, and only the whole can be born of Its Wholeness.” – ACIM Ch.7 The Gifts of the Kingdom IX The Extension of the Kingdom

After listening to him and reading the above chapter, I saw the play of my own egoas the mental block to stop my extension. My ego needed to establish a “show that I am good enough” persona. For some reason the ego doesn’t believe that the authentic Being is good enough. Just as I’m typing these words, the thoughts of “don’t say that, they will think less of you” or “that can’t be grammatically correct!” When these thoughts come to mind, I no longer stay on the path to extend my idea, instead I hold back and not give my all. The selfishness of the ego thinks it is safer to hide, safer to hold back. It is the same as I “put on a show” in aikido. Whenever I think the movement should be a certain way, I act it out, and I lose touch with my core. From there I am only able to extend with my shoulder and my arms giving the quality of inauthenticity. Whereas when I allow the principals to guide me, I feel the root from my feet deep into the ground, I feel a warmth within my hara, I naturally extension from my core because it feel TRUE and it feels GOOD. The Self-fullness comes out through my elbows and knees and extends from my fingers as an extension from my core. When I allow this authentic Being to extend, allowing the flow without expectations or judgments, I feel fulfilled.

As part of my aikido practice, I extend through my core whenever I can – especially when I feel I must contract instinctually. Friday was another day to practice. Our dojo was invited to give a demonstration at a local school to raise money for Japan. I am happy to report that I was able to maintain my extension throughout the day. Whenever I felt the need to contract, I relaxed more into my feet and I rooted into the ground. As a result, all parts of our demonstration were completely harmonious from setup to followup. The best part was to watch our little ones on their best behavior by extending from the bottom of their hearts.

With tears streaming down my face, I felt the bliss, the fulfillment and the extension.

Note *, ACIM uses the word ego in a different way than we are accustomed.  For ACIM, it is the false self created from the vacuum or need to establish an identity separate from the only identity we actually have, but have no conscious connection to, until we do.  That true identity is established by our Creator, and therefore inextricably part of God as a timeless, unchangeable, invulnerable, eternal Self.  That true identity has the characteristic of complete non-separation from anyone or anything, while also maintaining individual will, or choice. Choice in this context is fully harmonious with each and all things.  Well, all things in terms of their true identity.  The recipient of this singular connection, that is not connected to their true identity, may reject, abuse, negate, and yet cannot help but receive this light, or consciousness of true self from true self in you.  Very much like someone attacking my Senpai will not realize that your capacity to lovingly connect to them to gently resolve their attack does not require their complicity, but they cannot help but comply.  You are the more connected force to the truth, and so the laws of energy serve you, as they are the laws under which we have creation, consciousness and existence under God.

May 15, 2011 Posted by | Aikido Wisdom, Choices, Inner Growth, Self Realization, World Transformation | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment