Seeing Again For the First Time

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began, and know the place for the first time.
– T.S. Eliot

I arrived back in Japan for a few days for work. When I used my IC card to beep through the ticket gate, it worked. Smooth. I swapped out my SIM card, and there I had a working phone and internet.

The simple miracle of these two things working struck me. I was away from Japan for six weeks, and in that time I have: found an apartment, sorted through my things to discard a tenth, been sad about moving away from Japan, made new friends, had a housewarming party that drifted into the next morning, and traveled to four dojos in the city to train – enough experiences that I have changed a little, such that I can see Japan afresh.

On the train platform, I felt a tingle in my skin and a smile creep to my face. I bought a hot tea from the vending machine, stepped onto the train, and thought to myself that this simple action was not possible in Taipei; there is no drinking on the trains in Taipei, under penalty of fine.

At work, during meetings, I saw the familiar turn-taking during discourse, and wondered at how people intentionally leave pauses after making a statement, so that people can think or respond, instead of trying to fill all of the silence.

After work Tuesday, I go to my old dojo, it is filled with the familiar smells of charcoal-scented air freshener in the toilet, and the smell of sweat and deodorant in the changing room. I bowed in, said hello to the teacher, and had a good practice with old friends. I felt after practice that I could go back to my apartment in Ebisu, and it might still be mine. I would sit down with a beer and mess around on the piano, like I used to do sometimes after practice. But of course, I no longer live there.

One other sign of things changing: both my teachers at my old dojo said that my technique has become too eccentric. That it has changed is certain. These six weeks, the teachers at the dojos I have been to in Taiwan have been training the students to perform at an aikido exhibition, leaving me and others who chose not to participate in the exhibition to practice by ourselves. With the lack of instruction, it has been a time of experimentation and discovery, with previous limits removed. I have learned to move with greater ease, stability, and effectiveness, as it suits my body. Maybe I will return to their way of doing techniques, but I will return with new understanding, and free of dogma.

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