アメノオシオミミ

正勝つ、吾勝つ。Masakatsuagatsu, meaning true victory is the victory over the self, words often said by Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido, the studying of which brought me to this statement. Interestingly, it is one of the names of a child that resulted in the union between the Sun and Chaos in the legendary beginning of the world, as told by the Japanese. The full name of the this god is マサカツアガツカチハヤヒアメノオシオミミ, transliterated Masakatsuagatsu-katchihayahi-amenooshiomimi, the latter two parts translating as: the victory shall be as fast as the rising sun, and the patient straining of the rice stalks toward the sky. Speaking the name of the god invokes its power.

Training lets each day’s emergent self be victorious over yesterday’s self.

The future self’s possibilities are enfolded in the present self. We exist throughout time, inheritors of a legacy that extends back to the beginning of life, progenitors of a legacy that extends to the future – unless by accident or will we end our own lineage… Or through willful blindness.

I did not fall to the dark place suddenly, but rather through a long period of not paying attention, choosing comfort and safety, rather than clarity. Nor did I again find the light all at once but by degrees.

Consciousness is practiced in Iaido by doing things slowly, with clear intent, completing each movement before transitioning to the next. Movement and mind are the same. An improper form or a break in rhythm is indicative of a gap in consciousness. Perfect motion leads to calming of the mind. Consciousness is practiced in cooking in the same way. Doing things in the right order at the right time from memory calms the mind, even as the eating of the food nourishes the body. Cooking also makes deciding what to eat becomes less impulsive, more meditative, as one learns to listen to one’s body. Once, I had a blood test, and a day later walked by a fruit stand, saw bananas, bought a bunch and immediately ate a few. When the blood test results came back, they showed I had been low on potassium, an electrolyte that is plentiful in bananas. I was amazed, thinking – I knew, though I didn’t know how I knew, or even that I knew.

So it pays to listen to that little voice of instinct, because it is from a place of deep knowing. But, I have often been afraid to listen, because I have heard it whisper things which I did not want to hear. This is the Jungian shadow, and to the extent that we can we can converse with it, we become more Fully Human.

The shadow must be satisfied, because repression will only lead to resentment. But dark animal desires can be sublimated to a nobler form. Sexual desire emerges as motivated work, or a will to life. Competitiveness channeled becomes self-improvement. Rage when channeled becomes a certain clarity of purpose that when paired with well-executed action is calm and meditative. Despair as the figurative withdrawal to an internal monastery, for further study and transformation. Dark emotions contain a lot of information, but one must first recognize them as originating in the self, and stare into the darkness. 

Failure to do so can lead to an amputated humanity. More often as one too preoccupied with being “nice.” The light is not enough – only through her union with Chaos could the Sun give birth to Life.

I am happier for getting in touch with my inner asshole. He has become a productive contributor and is less prone to outbursts.

If one is not true to ones future self, it is easy to float half in a dream, to let ones mission be replaced by proxies designed by other people. During the short time that one is not paying attention, one may find that social media and porn have replaced being social, YouTube has replaced exploration, watching a reality TV show on cooking has replaced actual experimentation in the kitchen, and reading books on productivity and self-improvement has replaced actually doing anything.

Rabbi B. once told me – we must learn to see as if we are from the past, but live fully in the present. He meant being true to the values of our forebears, but not shunning the tools of modern industrial life. This can let us avoid many recent pathologies made worse by technology. Obesity caused by addiction to carbohydrates can be treated by returning to a more primitive diet. Internet or TV addiction can be treated by finding or making a circle of friends. Consumerism is actually a misdirected desire for progress that can be cured by measuring progress in a daily practice, such as art, science, dance, or rock climbing, rather than measuring progress in material possessions.

The difference between the instant satisfaction and the daily practice is that the daily practice takes time, and progress can be small. So people watch ice skating and live vicariously rather than learning how to roller-blade.

The daily practice frees us from concerns and frustrations of not being skilled. Practice will lead to skill, if one can be observant while at the same time being unattached to the outcome. One only has to be better than the self of yesterday.

The other difference is the quick fixes are ultimately unsatisfying to the will to life. Inside us is a little god of the Quick Fix, and a little god of the Will to Life, and whomever we feed becomes stronger.

A senior student of the sword told me – it will take many years. During practice, do not rush. Do not injure yourself. Rest or change muscle groups if you are tired. If your concentration is failing, rest, because it can be dangerous to yourself and others. Practice should be joyful. Never let handling a sword become a boring or tiresome thing.

So is it with any daily practice in life.

The name of the god: マサカツアガツカチハヤヒアメノオシオミミ

As a mantra, it encompasses the following:

Every day in every way, I’m becoming stronger.
Harness and use all desires, be they of light or shadow, to give life.
Let the focus of my mind, and the meditation of my movement be complete.

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Mantra

I woke this morning chanting a fully formed mantra:

Let the focus of my thoughts and the meditation of my movement be complete.

Two Mothers

小女孩指著天空「你看、天空黑黑的。」
媽媽說「不要坐下、褲子會髒掉。來、我們去走一走。」
小女孩起立、說「那我們一起跑。」
「跑到哪裡呢?」
「看你要跑到哪裡阿。」
「那裡!」小女孩開始跑。
媽媽說「好、不要跑了、危險。我們去走一走。」

小女孩就乖乖地一起走去了。

玩、是一種試著分享視點及意味。小女孩的媽媽有帶她女兒出來玩、但小女孩不能跟他分享興趣。希望她還繼續向自己的希望發展。

小男孩騎腳踏車跌倒。
他媽媽無言地走到、將腳踏車立起。男孩起立、拍一拍褲。
媽媽扶著腳踏車、把他交給男孩。
沒有讓他緊張、沒有怪他。
這樣才對。

The Gateway to Understanding

Practiced Aikido Wednesday with a friend CWS a knife disarming technique that involves locking the wrist that is holding the weapon, throwing, then pinning (Kotegaeshi). CWS threw me in such a way that had I been holding a weapon in my opposite hand (like the subway attacker four years ago who had one knife in each hand), I would have been able to stab his ribs in passing as I was being thrown. I have trained with CWS for four years now, and I thought it was about time for me to tell him. As he threw me, I touched his rib cage.

“This is a knife stab.” I said.

What ensued was various experimentation – him trying different angles and throwing me harder as he tried to close the opening.

He even resisted me at times as I took my turn throwing him. Once I touched his neck in preparation to throw. This was a sign that a punch would have reached his face. On the other hands he was only able to stand there as a result of my having slackened the tension in his arm.

I sensed frustration, and said no more. The answer was there. Sometimes people need to find their own answers. Six years of training this technique in a particular way, and me suddenly showing him a weakness in it, must have been unexpected for him, and it would take him time to adjust.

Two lessons:

1. When teaching, one must respect the experience of the other person, and understand that he may have a certain but if pride associated with it. One must provide the minimum necessary intervention to get the point across.

2. When faced with evidence that one has been wrong, the appropriate emotion is often frustration, but curiosity is more appropriate.

Found Out

This morning, I had the urge to bike to the customer, despite the rain. It was the first time.

Reminiscent of when I was working on construction sites in Tokyo, and would bring a suit in a bag. After work, I would wash my face, change into a suit, put my dirty work clothes in the suit bag, and go to interview for jobs at technology firms. Let them think I was just coming back from a business trip.

Today I biked to the customer a rain suit, changed into dry clothing after I got there, and hid everything in my backpack, which was dry because I had worn it under my rain jacket. Then I called my customer.
“Yo B, I’m here, waiting for you in the lobby.”

“Ok, I’ll be right down…”

My customer came down.

“Hey! Is it raining that hard?”

“Well, it is a bit.”

“Do you not have an umbrella?”

“I do, but I guess I still got a bit wet.”

“Did you… Bicycle here?”

“How did you know?”

“You mentioned cycling before. Hey, let’s find you a hair dryer. You’ll catch a cold.”

“Yeah, I was wearing a rain suit, but on my head only a bicycle helmet.”

“We have a shower room – I think there’s a dryer there.”

“Whoa, you have a shower?”

“The building codes require it. It for emergencies like chemical spills, but people generally use it to wash up after their commute.”

“That’s very cool.”

Thinking to myself – next time I can go stealth by biking here early and using the shower.

Early Summer Dusk

  
Early summer dusk, the colors of the sky changing as I type. This special moment where the changes come fast and visible. Pay attention. Life happens fast.

The last dusk I spent outside was in Tokyo, in a park in my old neighborhood, reflecting on impressions of Japan with an Aikido friend from Kazakhstan. His as a first time visitor, mine as a resident on a brief return.

At dusk,
At dawn,
At the moment a storm’s come or gone;
In birth,
In death,
In an awakening breath;
Change begets change,
And each is a window to new possibilities
Unfolding in visions in thoughts’ interstices.
Lord show me the way.

Time Travel

Last week one of my coworkers retired, I thought – shit I’m more than halfway there my myself. Same week one of my friends told of shopping for a funeral plot for his father, and since it’s a family plot, for himself, too. My friend is my age. Damn.

And how did it get to be fucking April already? Wasn’t it just January? As a kid, I’d hear adults saying stuff like this and think – meh, it’s because they haven’t made use of their time well that they regret its passage, but now I know it is simply letting oneself become aware of one’s precarious footsteps. Once, on the face of the earth, there were not any footsteps that were planted by me. Later, there will be a time when I shall plant no more footsteps.
The number of our footsteps and heartbeats is limited.

Hurtling through time and space, we can see what happened a hundred years ago, through the blurry filter of film, pictures, and books, but those people who saw it first hand are no longer with us, and though it may be possible for us to live beyond a hundred, what happens a hundred years from now, we will likely not see.

With slow conditioning, I am stronger, more balanced, and have better eyesight than I did ten years ago. My body has grown younger, and this has in some ways blinded me to the passage of time, but it is true – we are time travelers, and every day we get to make a few choices as to where we will be tomorrow. Life happens fast. Pay attention.

But in all our striving, we are not the final beneficiaries. Each day brings us a little closer to the dreamless sleep and the final forgetting.

Meanwhile every dance, every Aikido practice, every laugh is to me like a salve, like a refreshing wind or summer rain. In passing we can smell, touch, see, hear, taste, maybe remember it for a time, but we cannot own it. Surely my old friend PJ thought this as she sat on her back porch watching, smelling, listening to, feeling, and tasting the summer rain in the last stages of her struggle with cancer.

She has long passed into the unremembering sleep, but I can remember for her. In a way bits of us live in friends and family, just as I can be happy when my brother tells me of his vacation, so therefore his vacation is partly lived for me. Similarly, I can take a few deep breaths, and think of the pleasure PJ must have felt to be alive, and remember her healthy (the sound of her nerdy laugh) and share this pleasure of breathing with her vicariously.

Our time is too short.

Long has it been since I have reflected on the shadow of Death, but he is there, a faithful shadow who has followed me through all time, quietly whispering to remind me to be my better self, and promising though I may forget him, he will never desert me, until he lifts me up, and with a laugh or sigh, we say shit, fuck it, and step out into the void.