For some Aikido students, the study of the art becomes a lifelong endeavor. It turns out that I am one such person.
After a few years of practice, it occurred to me that my breathing was not quite right while practicing, so I dedicated the next year of practice to watching my breath during techniques. The rest of the practice was routine, but my attention was on improving this aspect. There was a period of several months where I consciously explored feeling better balanced during practice. Every so often, I appreciate spending a few weeks exploring softness in execution. I may dedicate a few sessions at a time to the spirit of irimi in execution.
And for the last few years, I have been working on teaching beginners as well as integrating my Zen practice into my Aikido.
There is no end to the possibilities.
It is easy to conclude that Aikido has infinite depth, and certainly it would not be wrong to say so, but what is the real lesson here?
What happens once we believe there is more? What happens when we believe that that there is no more? In the most limited sense, either belief may affect whether or not we attend class tonight. Expanding ever so slightly, how we approach the next class in no small way is affected. How our training partners, students, and instructors experience that session is also affected. And so it goes.
Holding a belief sets a course for exploration. We inherently seek the evidence that our beliefs are correct. Whether the beliefs are ultimately true or not is irrelevant; the magic is what happens once we believe. We have this spotlight and we point it where we choose. Don't just see what happens when we point it; look at the pointing itself! There is the magic.
But is it necessary to believe? What happens if we replace believing not with disbelief, but rather with not knowing? Will we fail to function? Will Aikido cease being Aikido if we do not hold ideas like "Aikido is this, not that"? Will we fail to learn or fail to acquire skill? To the contrary, we will find ourselves exactly where we are, open to all possibilities.
Should we then believe that holding no belief is better than holding a belief? This question is most certainly a trap. How can we resolve it?
Recognize that it is not essential to have an answer. Just practice.
[Inspired by Ron Ragusa's post, "One Hundred and Forty-Seven."]