I’ve been playing with a question that started forming when I left Seattle a few days ago. It originally felt like the problem of integrating, or deciding on some balance between, two mutually exclusive elements. This led to the heart of the matter: what I want for myself and what I’d like to impart to others ultimately (which are basically the same, as I am one person).
When practicing at Glenn’s dojo before the seminar, the practice was characterized by continuous movement, joy, abandon, and flexibility. This year, coming from Boulder, I was struck by the absence of resistance, rigidity, random organization, and reactance. I was struck by what I felt to be the lack of “stuff” to work with, physically and psychologically. Yet at Boulder, my struggle, which is not such a struggle anymore, was the absence of consistency, as well as coherent, cooperative diligence. What seems to have changed is, since I adopted that struggle in Boulder, now I have some ease and freedom with it, and my experience at Glenn’s showed me how used to it I’ve become. Kind of like getting used to studying in a noisy cafe, then finding the silence in a quiet cafe to be disconcerting.
The question that I am left with is not so much about me, but about what kind of group I’d like to nurture, or, more specifically, what kind of sensibilities I’d like to cultivate, encourage, and inspire in others. If I went with a stereotypical Endo sensei-type of practice, on the plus side there’d be more flexibility and joy, but on the minus side less awareness of practical and martial aspects. What also comes to mind is all that I’ve gained through experiences that were unpleasant, harsh, and unwelcome. I think of how self-discipline and mobilizing one’s own conviction is crucial in training. On the other hand, in a stereotypical ASU-type of practice, there’s more solidity, fewer openings, and awareness of a certain type but less playfulness/experimenting and less flexibility.
I don’t feel comfortable with the thinking that a person might take it upon himself to provide his students, children, etc. with unpleasant experiences in order to make them better. In any case, practically speaking, such behavior would obviously be detrimental to relationship and connection building. At the same time I’m uncomfortable with encouraging a pollyanna, head-in-the-clouds sensibility.
My thinking then went on to realize that there will always be people at different stages of development, and so I tried to imagine, if I were to have imperfect students, what would be more important for them to “get” during their development earlier and/or more surely e.g., error on the side of fluidity or integrity? (I remember a tennis magazine I used to subscribe to. It always had technical and strategic tips, and the interesting thing is there was always “good mistakes” and mistakes to avoid, and a rationale why.)
In the end, this is a question of how I myself want to be, what I myself seek, and how I myself strive to be without making myself dis-integrated or fragmented. At this point what I’d like to nurture is: mindfulness and self-respect. Mindfulness includes the understanding that there is always “more”, and that there is always a new moment to “check” and see ourselves and the world around us. Self-respect includes valuing oneself, thriving, letting oneself experience joy, growth, and self-actualization. It also includes refraining from overly subscribing to pressures, expectations, and other sources of neuroses and compulsions, while aspiring for “better” and holding oneself to standards. A person would decide how much to pursue and prioritize what aspects in his/her life, what to include and exclude, what to pour his/her energies into. Thus an individual would have and exercise freedom, autonomy, and individuality