Heart Opening Moments

BLOG of a Spiritual Stripper

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

Of Beer and Water

happy beer

“To alcohol! The cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.” – Homer Simpson, The Simpsons (Thanks to Jokers ™ http://angbuhayngis.blogspot.com/)

I’m not a simple person. I analyze. I won’t let go. Sometimes I even drive myself and other people nuts. I must come up with a solution to a problematic situation or else my mind will never rest. This is me. Accept it.

Here’s the story of beer and water. A straightforward story somehow turned into a complex way for me to change my perspective on life.

On Saturday after our vigorous aikido test, a bunch of us went out to celebrate with pizza and beer. I naturally took on the responsibility of getting beer for everyone at the table. After paid for a large pitcher and got four glasses, my hands were full. The crowd bumped into me as I struggled to bring our California Honey™ to the table. “I can finally relax now,” I thought to myself. “Is there WATER?” someone asked. “OH! We need another glass!” another person requested. Fine. I felt drops of sweat on my forehead as I pushed myself through the crowd back to the counter and returned with several water cups and another glass. The background music pounded louder as my muscles got even sorer. “Finally my bottom can touch the seat,” I thought to myself as I carefully poured beer into everyone’s glass. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed the friend near me got water for himself as he gingerly enjoyed the hydration. I looked around and noticed all the other water cups were empty and I desperately needed a sip of purity. “Did you get water for us too?” I asked as I gazed into the empty cups. Silence. “Could you please get the rest of us some water too?” I demanded with frustration. Unwillingly, he stood up and dragged himself to bring several more cups of water back to the table.

That was the story of beer and water. A straightforward story left me feeling uneasy for the next few days. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I couldn’t help but feel all the uncomfortableness came after the story of beer and water. I just couldn’t let it go.

What really happened there? My ego could make up a bunch of judgements about the “fact” that he is lazy, inconsiderate and he should be able to use the cups I brought to bring the rest of us water as he filled his own damn cup. I could keep on being mad.  I could ask myself why wouldn’t someone simply repay my kindness. He might be tired but we were all tired. It is unfair that I help out everyone else and no one helps me back.

WAIT! Break… My egoic thinking worsened the situation and I must change my own god damn mind to be in balance again.

Think again. What really happened there? Deep down behind the incident is my belief that if I did something nice someone else should meet me half way. So if I brought his cup and poured his beer then the least he can do is to bring me water along with his. But life doesn’t work that way. It is extremely unfair of me to make such a demand on him. It is unkind to twist his arm and force him to be kind to me. It is my choice to be kind. I must not expect appreciation nor reciprocation in return. Acts of kindness with expectations would only set me up for more disappointments. In order to regain my own balance without needy requests I must be able to live as an expression of kindness and joy. My life would be lighter and less complicated if I lived without expectations. I give because I want to, not because I might be appreciated or praised. In order to let go my discomfort for blame, I myself must live in such a way to expect no payment. My goal is not to give to receive, I give to give, I love to love. It is pure – not contaminated with a hidden agenda. If any returned kindness is received, it is a surprise, it is a gift. This way is a much happier way to live.

I know some people would never let such a small everyday incident bother them. I am not a simple person. I don’t turn away. I think. A lot. This is me. I am complicated. Like or not I analyze. I won’t let go until I find a happier solution to my problem. Cheers. I love who I am and I will do anything I can to change the behavior within me so I will never hurt someone else.  After lots of beer and water, I am thankful for my new found insight. Oh god, I certainly hope he will accept my apologies…

April 20, 2011 Posted by | Choices, Emotional Freedom, Inner Growth | , , , , , , , , , | 3 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

Reflection on Buddha 菩萨

Fractal 艺术

Buddha by Flo Li (Fractal art on Aluminum) Copyright 2010 http://www.FloLi.com

Rough English translation of a Chinese art critic’s review

First time I saw Flo’s works, out of curiosity, I wondered why it lacked specific artistic effects. However knowing fractals are mathematically generated, I was surprised that the seemingly dull mathematical formulas can actually condense into such beautiful patterns. These particular effects cannot be replicated, the same way that each input function can create various graphics are based on boundary conditions or variable constraints. Often times these functions and constraints produce no more than discontinued numbers or out of range nothingness – which seems like a little joke to the artist when rendering the fractal – hoping for something yet finding nothing. The nature of fractals made me wonder how someone can use this media to convey the depth of feelings.

In a quiet and pleasant place this work was cautiously presented. Much to the Flo’s personal preference to this piece she carefully placed it in her bedroom and hope to connect with its energy before handing it over to a buyer. Flo spent much time producing this work and I wondered why is this work so difficult… I noticed that this piece conveys a deep idea and it is simply profound. Because of its black background, the sliver and blue/green focus precipitated out of the whole picture against that dark contract – making the work hauntingly mysterious. Her use of color was very stingy yet it is this presence of color contract of black, silver and cold blue that simplified the process of captivating the viewers’ hearts with a quite whisper of sublime kiss.

The name of this painting is called “Buddha”. Before I had asked for its name I speculated the kind of work this particular piece contributed. It has the feeling of penetrating sacredness that people long for but have difficulties grasping. After knowing the title of the work, the sacred feeling has deepened. This work conveys a highly philosophical realm. Only in this state such creation was able to blossom out of our hearts to answer our longing for God – not because it rigidly adheres to a particular shape or image but rather it generates an intuitive visual experience of inner knowing. It is this explosion from within truly expresses the sacred and the unspecified wondrous harmony that deeply haunts the spirit of all living creatures. Flo uses the specific color of cold blue to give connotation to the presence of Buddha, seemingly appropriate, as the coldness inspires us to feel the spirit within the space spanning nothingness. On the other hand, the darker blue area in the center of the work  with darker dots made me think of characteristics of a mother’s womb as it traces back to the beginning of human race. The transformation outwardness from the womb into undefined physical shapes shows where human nature was often overlooked in our current cultures and human societal laws are now bound by ball and chain into silencing the inquiring minds… The reason why the Buddha is God is because she can influence people’s hearts. In fact, the way this “Buddha” is represented is vastly different from historical images of colorful Buddha created by our minds with jewels covered shawls, mediating in the throne of a shimmering lotus, showing anger with thick brows and mercy with the flick of a finger.  The images of Buddha throughout history have been heavily based on human interpretations while artists have mistaken our egotistical creations for the source of spiritual inspiration. Therefore God must not simply be the image of anthropomorphic art. God’s true charm lies within the invisible strength where faith is precisely seeing beyond the seeing-eye to go beyond our perceptions of lack and separation and to surpass our confused minds of hardship we were addicted to pursuit. When I saw this piece of Flo’s work I realized in fact WE have been overly concerned with the appearance of things rather than the essence of things. The outward search cannot offer spiritual freedom, we must find a doorway into mental and spiritual moments of serenity in order to reach within – into the permanent peace of the mind and ease of the spirit.

Flo is a practitioner of martial arts. She pursues the Tao of Aikido in order to sense the physical, mental and spiritual condensation of divine Ki – the ball of energy within the hara that acts as a doorway to access the endless supply of our essence. When I stood quietly in front of “Buddha” I found myself unable to escape the “balloon” feeling within my center because the composition of “Buddha” have somehow evoked the life essence within me. Its spiritual nourishment metabolized into physical sentiment. In this piece, the turning of gaseous sphere around Buddha’s center produces the bodily outlines that layers around its essence symbolizing the impermanence of our appearance but what is true lies within. Just as we feel inspired, we take a breathe into nourishing the body through the spirit. The Ki-focused and body-secondaried composition also leads the viewers into the illusion of different perceptions of the Buddha without making the outer perception as the ultimate goal. It honors various visions of Buddha without adhering to the historical views and worships. In this work, Flo has clearly standardized the answer that many individuals discovered on the road to  self-awareness – elements of unseen need to be found in order to reach God. This unique form of painting gives the viewers an objective freedom of choice not only through the interpretation of the theme of such creation but also through the image of Buddha from different viewer’s own perspectives and rich cultural backgrounds.

The most magical moment this work brought forth is that the human spirit unconsciously craves the merging of the physicality of mathematics into the spirituality of arts. Fractal’s extraordinary creative method can not be planned or reproduced by the same equation as we cannot plan ahead where a mystical experience can suddenly take place. Unlike Flo’s traditional paintings, such holistic work cannot be executed by plan alone but it must rely on faith and the rarity of coincidences. In fractals, only faith is appropriate because this art form cannot be derived from our subjective metamorphosis of our ego to transfer the misconception of human will. I believe “Buddha” is special. It is pure. In fact, as long as the heart of God is still beating, “Buddha” is truly watching over us everywhere.

Thank you Flo for your creation, for your faith and for your inspiration. Your work has brought us many moments of Truth and endless waves of awareness…

By 小鱼 (Ethan Zhao)

Jan 12th, 2011


在一个安静和惬意的地方摆放艺术作品往往是非常谨慎的, 这张作品挂在FLO的卧室里FLO非常喜欢它,所以在这张作品上也花费了大量的时间去制作.而在我看来FLO诸多的作品中,这张作品最为艰辛,为什么这么说呢?因为作品传达出来的意念不仅仅是深刻.因为在黑色的渲染中整张画面更沉淀出一种难以形容的玄妙,FLO并没有给整幅作品赋予太多的色彩,用色彩非常的吝啬,但正是这种有些压迫感的色彩效果,反而使得观者的心里得到了难以宁静的升华.

这张作品的名字叫做”菩萨”,只是这张作品在我并不知道它的名字之前既有了自己的猜测,因为画面所渗透出的那种神圣的感觉使人无法木然。看到了作品的题解之后,这种感受更加加深了。这张作品传达出了极高的哲学境界,创作之所以能在我们的心里绽放出对神的向往,并不是因为它拘泥于某种特殊的形象之中,而是在于视觉产生的第一感受。正是这种从内部散发的神圣与奇妙,深深的感染着泯泯众生.FLO是用冰冷的蓝色赋予菩萨特有的内涵,这种色彩的渲染非常贴切,在不知不觉中启迪着我们的精神空间,而在画面蓝色区域的中心深蓝色的圆点让我更多的联想是母亲的特质,想到了孕育人类的起点,只是这种人类的本质,常常被忽视和默然所束缚。菩萨之所以为神,那是因为她可以感化人们的心灵。其实菩萨的形象绝不单纯是我们脑海里,那个身着宝石罗英,脚踏莲花宝座,慈眉善目,大慈大悲普度众生。因为任何神的形象都是人们对现实困惑的反映,是对人类精神世界的一种诠释,所以神绝不单纯只是拟人化的艺术形象。实际上神的魅力是一种贯穿于对生命的启迪和力量, 信仰恰恰是因为人类自身的某种无法逾越的缺失,才使得芸芸众生不得不去苦苦的追寻。当我看见FLO这副作品之后,我才恍然大悟:其实我们过去一直关注的是事物的表象而非本质,所以我们只能得到精神或心灵上片刻的宁静,而却达不到心境永久的收放自如。.




January 14, 2011 Posted by | Aikido Wisdom, Chinese, Fine Arts, Self Realization | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Forgive-ful Christmas


Peace rests within Forgiveness

In Aikido, we always say Arigato Gozaimashita (ありがとうございました) when bowing at the end of class. The meaning roughly translates to “thank you for what we just did together”. In a way by bowing to one another we thank our partners for training with us, for the lessons brought to our attention, and forgive any physical pain we might have inflicted on one another. It is a ceremonial gesture to conclude the lesson.

During our tanto practice a few weeks ago, a senior student accidentally stabbed me on the leg during a throw. I tried to walk it off but the pain lingered as we continued our lesson. At the end of class I found myself wondering why he didn’t pay more attention when holding a blade. Thin wisps of resentment clung over me as I bowed to him at the end of class. I knew he did not mean to hurt me. It was an accident. Just a meaningless accident. I took a deep breath and told myself it was good learning for us both. If he was able to control the blade better he would have. I forgave him quickly. Within minutes we ended up laughing at ourselves for each of our unique clumsiness.

Other times I was unable to forgive quickly. Clinging onto the past can certainly make one heavy load. Especially when I carry it with me day in and day out. In Buddhism Upādāna describes such clinging results in suffering. This is exactly how I’ve suffered this year. Last December someone’s careless remark wounded me deeply. For most of December and January I cried in secret wondering why he wanted to hurt me. I realized that perhaps I have wounded him deeply once upon a time. It was easy for me to forgive him no matter how many times thereafter he cuts into me knowing the pain he must go through. I had tremendous compassion for him and my love grew stronger. On the other hand, it was not so easy to forgive myself. I thought since I played a part in his suffering therefore it was rightful for me to suffer. In a way I secretly wished that my suffering could take away his pain. This self-loathing went on for nearly a year as it took on different forms. Unconsciously I found ways to torture myself and felt it was needed for me to learn my lesson. My self-punishment got worse and worse and forgiving myself was never part of my agenda. While bleeding on the surgical table one early October morning, I knew I can no longer go on this way.

Only if I could let go the past and start anew… Only if I can forgive and be forgiven.

In Luke 23:34 – Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” When we did not know how our dishonesty, our careless remarks or our insensitivity can deeply wound another, we go on repeating our old behaviors again and again. Only by truly experiencing and understanding our own pain and hence someone else’s pain, we then learn the suffering we all share. This is when compassion arise and we humbly ask God to forgive us and release us from the past.

Only if I could let go the past and start anew… Only if I can forgive and be forgiven…

In the night before Christmas, a star was born to guide us from darkness into light. As we gaze into the sky finding our own guiding star, a miracle is released for each of us – gently flowing toward our hearts and expanding throughout our bodies and flowing towards others around us… We shall let go the past and keep the learning forward. We shall keep our lantern lit to guide the path of those who follow… As we travel forth, I pray for love to return to our hearts, I pray for peace to dwell our minds, and I pray for a forgive-ful Christmas for all.

December 24, 2010 Posted by | Aikido Wisdom, Choices, Tears | , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Healing in Confrontation

Aikido Wrist lock

Aikido: welcoming an attack, face the confrontation and choose the path of peace

On Saturday as Sensei and I worked on Shomen Uchi Nikajo Osae Ni, I found myself moving to the side when he attacked. I tensed up expecting having to put up a fight. After a year and a half of Aikido training, my body still reacted in an aggressive way. I wanted to distract him and take him off balance as soon as we made contact. I did not wish to face the expected confrontation. I wanted to move on and ignore the strike.

Yes, I often avoided confrontations.

As I spoke my concern to Sensei, he suggested that whenever a strike comes my way, I speak the words “thank you” to uke and allow the true gratitude to sink into my body. I tired. The words were forced and felt inauthentic. “Why should I thank someone who is about to attack me?” I asked myself. Logically I knew I am truly thankful for life’s little needle pricks that often ended up healing me in someway yet instinctually I cannot instantaneously be thankful for the expected attack. Instinctually I wanted to put up a fight or run away. Instinctually I cannot embrace the strike aimed to harm me. And instinctually I reacted instead of asking my body to act with clear choice based on connection toward a peaceful resolution.

I found more hidden aggression and manipulation within my body as the weekend progressed. I started to recognize how often I avoided confrontation in order to remain in the illusion of safety. I noticed most of times I distracted an expected attack hoping to avoid confrontation instead of courageously heading into a peaceful resolution. I realized I’ve always manipulated the situation so I can remain nice and agreeable instead of dealing with the facts.

As my tears started to dribble down my cheeks, I felt the impact of avoidance – with so much wasted drama and energy. Sometimes I have hidden from facing confrontation by running away from opportunities. Other times I avoided confrontation by half heartedly agreeing with untruth while manipulating it to conform instead of sinking deeper into my core truth. Recently, as my mother disagreed with my choices and started to create emotional drama to guilt trip me into submission, I did not remain strong in my core. Instead of saying no to her unconscious manipulation, I acted out what she wanted in order to make her happy – I avoided speaking my truth. In the end, so much of my energy was channeled into counter manipulations and I felt exhausted in the process while losing my own integrity.

I couldn’t help but think can saying “thank you” to an expected attack really help me in life. Can a peaceful resolution really result from the willingness and gratitude to connect to an attacker? In my gut I know the answer is yes as I have seen it over and over again – yet I still question if this concept is as reliable as gravity itself. Can Aikido truly be the tool that could transform the aggressive consciousness of our instinctual nature and bring us into harmony?

The body says yes.

May 24, 2010 Posted by | Aikido Wisdom | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Together We Are Stronger

Aikido Wrist lock

Does your partnership make you stronger?

Lately I can’t help to notice the subtle dynamics in various relationships. Sometimes being with another person adds to our energy and enthusiasm and other times being with another takes away our mojo. Do you have someone in your life that contributes to your wellbeing and another drains the life energy out of you? Have you ever wondered why that is?

This is something I’ve been dealing with for a while now. I didn’t fully grok the impact until a recent aikido class.

My partner and I were working together on a movement that could become completely powerful without a single ounce of aggression. His body was stiff and not easy to connect with. His stiffness felt like an energetic wall that blocked me from harmonizing with his energy. I quickly took offense to that and wanted to put up a fight. I noticed the momentary aggression in my body and decided to act differently. Instead of fighting against him, I worked with the direction of his energy along his stiffness. Within a split second, I took his centerline by softening up my touch and he was down on the ground in no time. What happened was that I decided to let go my ego’s instinct of wanting to put up a fight. I had to see him in a whole new light – he is my brother and not a threat to me. His stiffness comes from years of fear stored within the body. His inability to relax is no fault of his own but a trained habit. In order for me to connect with him, I cannot judge him for his stiffness nor fault him for it. I must accept where he is, maintain my center, and melt myself around it in order to redirect it. The surprising part was he and I both felt connected and we laughed how powerful the move was. There was no resentment. He did not feel as if I did something to his body. Instead, he felt as if we harmonized to work together and achieved a mutually desired outcome.

Another partner behaved differently. Her grip was soft and barely there. I became frustrated by her unwillingness to assert herself. I couldn’t feel her so how would I be able to work with her? So I adjusted myself to be even softer and that back fired. This reminded me of being in a relationship with a man who always catered to me and my needs. He came over whenever I called. He canceled appointments just so he can be with me. He even came over and washed my dirty dishes. Soon enough I no longer felt the same way about him because he was no longer who he is. He became whatever he thinks I need him to be.  In turn I felt guilty how nice he was to me and I adjusted myself to cater to him. I cooked the food he likes. I put on a few pounds to add the the curves he desires. I helped him with his work and stopped working on my projects. I attempted to even out the relationship and all I felt was resentment. He adjusted for me and I adjusted for him. Both of us lost our own centers in the name of our relationship. I no longer felt our partnership strengthened the both of us, instead our combined energy was less than we were on our own.

What’s different between the two cases? In the first case, I had to accept where my partner is, let go my ego, and work with his energy. I must be softer than stiffness to harmonize. In the second case, I became even softer but gave up my own integrity. Being too soft made me lose myself in that relationship. I’ve noticed that I adjust myself in my relationships quite a bit. Often times I don’t tell the truth because I am scared of hurting someone else’s feelings. Other times I back away from my truth in order to give someone else more space. I find whenever I become too passive and not asserting my truth, I become weaker in the process. Any relationship that is build on mutual sacrifice does not work in the long run. A healthy relationship is supposed to make us stronger and not weaker. Only by asserting ourselves we then find the mutual balance point where both of our strengths meet. That is the point of power – where one plus one equals infinity.

Ask yourselves is your relationship making you stronger as a person? Is your relationship adding more grace to your life? If not, it is time to self-exam to see if you are sacrificing too much of who you are. It is never too late to make adjustments and gain back your center. Only from a centered and self-empowered place we can then chose wisely going forward. It’s time to allow our partnerships to make us stronger!

March 15, 2010 Posted by | Aikido Wisdom | , , , , | 8 Comments

Pole Dancing and Aikido

Melt into harmony - when a partnership is created between your body and the pole.

After thinking about pole dancing for several years now, I finally took the plunge. My girl friend and I started going to Pole Sinsation the beginning of this year. Initially this new form of physical training seemed awkward and we both felt extremely spastic. For starter, I was too scared to wear the 6-inch heels, so instead I went bare foot. As I pivoted on the ball of my foot while maintaining the strength from my core, my body remembered a similar sensation from Aikido. There was something my body wanted to communicate. I allowed. It went quite for several days.

On Saturday Aikido was tough. There was one move in particular that I still couldn’t do after more than a year of intense training. My initial reaction was to blame my partner. It was the stiffness in his body that made my technique impossible. It was his height that made me overextend myself. It was his unwillingness to connect that made our relationship unnatural… I’ve been walking the spiritual path long enough now to know that I must take responsibilities, yet I couldn’t bring myself to admit my own contribution to the difficulties I’ve experienced on the mats.

On Sunday, Pole Dancing was even tougher. I was surprised how well I was doing last week but Sunday turned out to be a lot worse than I have expected. The pole was so cold and metallic it gave me blisters on my pinkie.  The skin on my thigh was getting stuck because the static friction was too great to complete my turns. The surface of the pole was too slippery on top because nobody bothered to climb up and give it a good cleaning. Finally I noticed how my repulsive thoughts have lead to my dreadful emotions; I began to resent being there and I disliked my body.  So I decided to just give it up. Not giving up dancing, but instead giving up the need to blame.

I know how much I love dancing. I took ballet, jazz, Tang Dynasty dancing, Swing, and sometimes ballroom. I’m definitely not a professional but I’ve always enjoyed dancing on my own because I love the freedom of self-expression. AND because I enjoyed feeling the strength of my own core. But whenever I danced with a partner, I would have to adjust to his style of movement. Being the control freak that I am, I secretly resented how I was not leading and I could do a better job if I was the lead. I told myself that some leads are so not coordinated that I end up losing my own center and stumble over my own feet. Only the days I salsa danced with Andre Paradis, I give up control completely. Those days I felt grounded in my heels and the strength from my center when he executed his famous triple underarm turns. He knew what he was doing as he worked around his own center while staying completely engaged. He choreographed for and danced with Michael Jackson for God sakes! Whenever we disconnected, he apologized for not making adjustments for my body since he was the lead. He graciously took responsibilities.

So how does core strength, making adjustments, taking responsibilities relate to aikido and pole dancing? Well, in both pole dancing and aikido, I have to work with a partner. In pole dancing my partner is the pole that I’m engaged in a physical relationship with while in aikido my partner is the other person I’m engaged in a physical relationship with. In pole dancing, I can see myself more clearly. It would be silly to blame an inanimate object for my failures. In order to move forward, I have to stay grounded and adjust myself.  How is my posture? Am I using my core strength or momentum? Do I clench on too tightly? Is there enough space between my body and the pole? Where do I carry the unnecessary tension? Am I out of my head and totally devoted to my body? How smooth are my transitions when I switch directions? So when I fail, I can blame the pole for not adjusting to my needs or I can take responsibilities and examine myself. All these questions will take me out of my need to blame and bring me back to taking responsibilities again. And in Aikido, being shite, I am responsible to execute the techniques by being grounded, harnessing the power from my own core, and adjusting to the unique composition of my partner. I have to first find where I am, the connection I’ve made with the mats, my body’s centerline, only from there, I can then interact with a partner by moving with his body’s natural centerline. I must ask myself probing questions: Am I grounded? How is my posture? Are the movements executed from my core or from the momentum created by my arms? Do I clench too tightly? Is there enough space between my partner and I? Do I allow myself to melt into him without all the unnecessary tension? Am I maintaining the smoothness of transition by keeping a full connection when I’m heading into a new direction?

Do you notice the similarities? In both cases, your power comes from your core when you engage in any relationship!

So by taking responsibilities, we are staying true to our core, being who we are, making adjustments to the person we are engaged in a relationship with – WITHOUT LOSING OUR OWN CORE! Being in a relationship is not about losing oneself but exerting oneself to blend with another. I’ve seen a lot of difficulties occuring in many relationships wherein one person is making too much sacrifice and thus losing oneself. That is not healthy in friendships or relationships. We will just end up losing our centerline and become resentful. By noticing how I interact with an inanimate partner I can find my own behavior patterns that stands in the way of creating a healthy relationship.

there’s more coming up next time…

January 12, 2010 Posted by | Aikido Wisdom, Choices, Self Realization | , , , , , | Leave a comment