Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Field of Harmony

The pictures above represent a veery early phase of my life. My mom and dad when they were both very young. A picture of me as a toddler. The last picture was taken in Santa Cruz at the place I was raised on 17th avenue. The pine tree in the background was an old friend and still remains strong in my memories. The house is now gone, torn down in the late '60's. A trailer park now stands where it did. The pine tree remained for awhile and I would notice it as I drove past the trailer park. It is now gone also.

So this is a blog about what we might call for want of a better term "The Field of Harmony". What if aikido is not about the techniques or the skill one acquires with them? What if aikido exists independently of the technical body of movements and even of the existing political and ranking structure that now exists? What if aikido is not strictly about the physical location of the dojo or even the friends you have there? What if aikido is not about your teacher(s?)(although please be respectful of them)?

What if the field of harmony were something that one's "I" and everyday mind just didn't value? It is not the sexiest thing going. There is the rush of powering up for the dynamic finish of a technique. Or the swagger of feeling one is "getting it". Whatever one is. Or the satisfaction that one has been around and can talk with some authority about the inner workings of the art's politics. So what if this field couldn't compare with any of these things the"I" and its normal level of mind valued?

It takes more than one thing to create a harmony. If the world the universe was all IIII Me Me Me there might be boredom but everything would be just one thing. But the second another thing is introduced the possibility of disharmony comes into being. And so does the possibility of harmony.

What if the harmony represented a much more original state that just was? And we might come upon it by backtracking, ie pursuing something around training and growth? So even though we seem to be clueing into it by going forward in life, it is in reality a return to a more original level of being? What if the I and mind at their everyday level were just locked into grooves that brought you out of that state? Or at least if you touched it you might associate it with something else like being in nature, going to a yoga class, or even training in aikido? What if it's the biggest and best kept secret going?

And what if it is there everytime you simply settle and let your body catch up to where your mind wants it to go? What if by centering or grounding through the body it just simply is? What if one of the biggest traps were to become mindful(ie full of mind) of it? And you need at least two things to harmonize to tap into it. A mind and body. A yin and yang. A receptive and a positive. A masculine and a feminine. A water energy and a fire energy. Heaven and earth. Form and formless(emptiness). So an alchemy of at least 2 forces.

The question is often raised how can I be in harmony during what is a very difficult time. People are losing jobs. Facing forclosure. Facing a loss of trust in traditional institutions and structures. How can I be in harmony when all this is going on? Someone once explained to me that I couldn't be poor enough to make even one other person rich. Or that I couldn't be miserable enough to make one other person happy. By coming from the field of harmony we bring into the world something it desperately needs........balance. So now is the most important time for Aikido's most important message.

A case in point. My second stay in Japan was probably my most powerful. The first was just a day to day struggle. And the third brought me squarely face to face with the reality of the art's political nature. So in terms of feeling good about myself(which the I and the mind value) it was my strongest stay. Yet I came home because my mom was very ill with terminal cancer. I began to teach at the University in Santa Cruz. Because I had a lot of free time(a couple of hours a day covers a teaching load in aikido)I was asked to be with my mom in the hospitol on a daily basis. My dad had to work to keep the family going financially. And my sister was in San Francisco at the UC medical center finishing up a degree in pharmacy. This was my mom's dream and my sister worked hard to fullfill it. So I was it when it came to being there on a daily basis.

Now the things that one values in daily training: increasing mastery of technique, speed, power, stamina, strong will do nothing when one is essentially a caregiver. Much more importance is calmness, an ability to nurture. A sense of loving connection. My dad marvelled that I could get her to laugh even under such dire straits. I guess I brought some of Tojima sensei's magic with me.

So all of what one might term benefits of hard and intense training seemed of little use. What sustained me? I believe it was the field of harmony. In some sense being such an original state, we might view it as a parent on another level. In The Secret Teachings the founder urges us to see the kami as our parents. And he urges us to"Fix our thoughts on emptiness, stand in the void, and transcend life and death". That, he says, is the secret of martial arts. Even though it was some months before she died, on a daily basis I faced death. So life and death together. And at the same time I was terrified by the imminent loss of the being who had brought me into the world and nurtured me. Given me life. Life and Death. But I know that I was able to make my piece with her passing. And that I got a lot of strength from putting aside the I and mind's agenda for what I wanted and doing what was the right thing in the right way.

I shot a video of the song"My Funny Valentine". It is Chet Baker's signature song and one of my favorites. The lyrics are fitting with the field of harmony. The song deals with a love that is outside what the minds attributes beauty and love to:

"Your looks are Laughable, unphotographable
Yet your my favorite work of art.

Is your figure less than Greek,
Is you mouth a little weak,
When you open it to speak,
Are you smart?

But don't change your hair for me,
Not if you care for me,
Stay Little Valentine stay,
Each day is Valentine's day."

So maybe Valentine's day in the song is a metaphor for the Field. There are many other things your mind and it's everyday level of I would find sexier. But it is my favorite work of Art.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Concert at Tenchi Aikido

The first weekend in August there was an aikido weekend at Tenchi Aikido in Sebastopol. It was hosted by Betsy Hill sensei and James Gauer. It included some dan tests, training, and some music. I have been playing along with Dennis Kyne after Saturday morning class and didn't want to miss a session. So Dennis was kind enough to attend the seminar so we could practice together. Since we had never done this for any sort of audience, it would be a good practice session for that as well.

Following the training on Saturday, he and I jammed probably for over an hour. It was very INFORMAL. People gathered outside and socialized while we played inside the dojo. A few brave souls came in and actually sat and listened. We got some very nice and kind comments about the music.

I enjoy the sessions with Dennis because I am able to play along with someone. I was able to do this with Ben Shuts earlier. And even earlier was able to meet and play along with Marianne Messina. Dennis is very talented and can give me a number of different looks to try to play along with. We will be playing for the 40th anniversary celebration/fundraiser on November 15. So if you would like a little preview..........

As you can see, Vlad was there. And my friend Dianna.

On another note, some of you remember Richard Paredes from the dojo's location in Japantown. I recently spoke with him over the phone. He was suffering from a serious case of liver failure. However, he received a transplant and is doing well.

Anyway, here is a video from the music session of the Sebastopol weekend:

Sunday, September 06, 2009

More 40th anniversary celebration

This photo is from I believe Spring of 1974. I was back from my first stay in Japan and was doing an aikido club at Cabrillo Junior College along with Steve Gray. Steve was part of the first group of shodans produced by the UC Santa Cruz Aikido led by Robert Frager sensei. I left for my second Japan stay in August of that year. I'm not sure what if anything happened to that club. Those of us still alive from back then were obviously much younger. I don't have any real memories of that club other than it was fun.

We have a tentative date for the celebration of my 40th year in Aikido. That date is Sunday November 15th. It will be at the dojo, include a day of training, a meal(light), some music, and , hopefully, some memorable people from the past 40 years. The event is also a fundraiser. We get our portion of the power bill around then. Last year it went up by almost a thousand or so, and I'm expecting more of the same this year in a down economy.

Again, tentatively, some people have indicated that they are interested in attending. I started with Robert Frager at the UC Santa Cruz Aikido Club in October of 1969. At that time he and Robert Nadeau worked very closely together. So, between teaching exchanges(Santa Cruz and Mt View) and co-taught workshops, they were both my original influences in aikido. They combined to pass on a deep reverence for and appreciation of Aikido's founder, Ueshiba Morihei Osensei. And their more humanistic transpersonal approach to aikido was very important in shaping this area's uniqueness.

Linda Holiday sensei has indicated that she probably can make it and do some teaching as well. Hopefully the tides of fate will flow so that this is possible. More on the rest of the people teaching soon as this event develops. I plan on doing some teaching. But I would like to acknowledge people from my past and also people from the history of Aikido of San Jose. So there will be several people teaching. As this firms up, I will let you know.

I have been doing the music for the past 2 years. Recently I have begun playing with Dennis Kyne from the dojo. Dennis is a very talented musician. We've done the background for the 2 most recent videos on youtube. We'll probably play a few numbers, which require audience attention, then just jam. Then people can talk or listen as they wish. This went very well at the most recent weekend workshop in Sebastopol. I received some very kind words from Artt Frank, who was an incredibly close friend of Chet Baker, recently. So hopefully the playing is coming along. I just feel that you can only play for yourself so long and that at sometime you have to try and communicate what is going on with you at an inner level.

So, stay tuned.........

I was referred to this video on youtube and I think it is incredibly clever. Iron Man vs Bruce Lee. With a surprising conclusion. In 1970 there was a comic book event on the UC Santa Cruz campus. A number of us attending were given a chance to speak into a tape recorder, with the assurance that Stan Lee himself would hear the tape. I mentioned I thought martial arts would be important in both comics and media in the future. I saw an interview with Stan recently where he said Bruce Lee was the prime reason for such Marvel titles as Iron Fist and Master of Kung Fu. Probably no correlation but an interesting aside. And, as this video shows, it is possible for someone with training and no super powers to be a super hero.