Sunday, October 4, 2009

Relax, Just Relax

I guess this is my greatest challenge: relaxing. I would have not thought that was the case, and often (far too often) I forget. But it is. Relaxing is at the absolute core of the arts I study. I imagine it is at the core of most martial arts, most meditative traditions, most sensible approaches to living. But it still seems to be a giant challenge. And I'm not really sure why. I think in part it is counter intuitive. When we are working on something that takes concentration, we put everything into it--maybe too much. Since I have been working on this and trying to be mindful I notice it happens more often on new techniques and applications, and/or if I am tired and not paying attention. When trying something new or difficult, I want it all to work out. So I try. When I try I often tense up, especially around the shoulders. I think more than anything it is bad habit, but deeply ingrained just the same.

Another challenge is trying to muscle my way through a technique instead of letting the technique itself do the work. That also happens subconsciously because that is how I have always done things. In fact I do understand the concept of structure and Aiki, blending with a partner's energy. But it is easier said than done, and I have to consciously make myself do it, which inevitably leads to muscling because I am doing the technique rather than working through a technique that is in itself doing it. I have been practicing Taiji long enough now that I can often catch myself as long as I am mindful and focused, and adjust without too much difficulty or without totally losing it all. With Aikido I'm just not there yet. And it often feels as if I will never be there. I am sure that is one of the reasons it takes so long to make rank.

I am working with the premise that practice eventually makes perfect, or at least works some of the kinks out. I believe I can make it work eventually, as long as I quit trying so hard. Now is that a Koan or what?