© Paul Rest
In the martial art Aikido, we are always dealing with lines of energy. These are the energetic lines that connect us one with another and with all things. In Aikido, we learn that these energetic lines are everywhere. When we practice, we learn how to move with (and blend with) these lines of energy.
As we train in Aikido, we learn to recognize and sense where these are, how they are changing, and what is needed so we can move and flow within that dynamic energy. Over time, this learning becomes embodied. It becomes part of the sinews of our being.
Moving off the line (stepping to the side) is one way of dealing with incoming energy. Or, we can stay put and not move; that is, we blend with the incoming energy. This looks likes a possible head-on clash. However, it is diffused with a skilled martial movement so that neither person is harmed. Either way, we are not blocking the energy. We are not avoiding the lines of energy. We are listening. We are letting this energy move through us. And we are being as present as we can be in those moments on and off the mat.
Aikido teaches us techniques and ways of doing for working with all types of energy. That is, we learn to deal with what is happening on that line of energy coming towards us and surrounding us each and every moment of our lives. This is done by first recognized that the lines of energy are there. Something is happening! And that “something” can and will affect us.
My partner’s high school age daughter lives with us half time. She is a wonderful, brilliant, artistic, high-spirited and a beautiful young woman. She’s also somewhat headstrong and absent minded. She leaves dishes everywhere she’s been in the house. Her room is a disaster area. You can count on dishes being left on the counter, in front of the computer in the study, on the table by the television and unwashed pans on the stove top.
This all came to a head some weeks ago. In the morning the stove top was a mess with pans and skillets. Dishes were scattered about the counter top. The breadboard was covered with crumbs and pieces of vegetables. In the past, I (and her mother) had picked up her dishes and cleaned up after her. There would be a soft verbal reminder that her cleaning up was expected of her.
On this morning, there was a particularly sharp energetic moment that I recognized. My comment about the mess in the kitchen had hit her in a way I had not expected. I had pushed her; she energetically pushed back. She didn’t really say much. “I know,” was her only comment. But it, the energy, was there. Sharp and palpable. I’ve learned through taking and teaching classes to recognize that there is moment that becomes a real point of demarcation. Crossing this line on the mat means if you are attacking that you will be thrown. If you are receiving an attack, it is time for you to act, to do a technique. I was now dealing with that line. The other line was that we were energetically now facing off against each other.
I, at that moment, felt that I was at these points with this young woman. Before my life changed with my entering the world of Aikido, I would have asked her to sit down and we would have had a serious family conversation involving her mother and me about her being responsible, about becoming an adult and how she needed to help around the house.
This time I stopped. I looked at where the energy was at in that moment. My body said,
“Is this where I wanted to fight a battle, this battle?”
The energy was not about me being right or her being wrong– or, even the other way around. What it was about was seeing what was there at that moment.
One of the great learnings in Aikido is called, ‘you take what’s there.” If your partner is off center that day or screws up what he or she is doing, you adapt, you adjust. If something goes haywire with you, you make changes and move accordingly. You tell the truth about each moment, each situation.
- “What can I do?”
- “What should I do?”
- “What is the best possible action for the best possible outcome in this situation?”
So, as the question framed itself, I realized that this was what I had to consider:
“Did I want to make our relationship around her doing dishes and/or her picking up her bowls and cups and cleaning the counter top?”
Once again, my body told me clearly that this was not the conversation I wanted to be in with her. I decided the answer was clearly, “No.”
Later, my mind clicked in and I saw the wisdom of what I perceived with my body’s language. And still later, my spirit clicked in. I had stepped back. Off the line. Slowly, over the next days, I could feel that order was restored in our part of the Universe. The lines of energy between us were over the next week healed, restored.
I realized I wanted her to trust me during these important years in her life. I could spend five or so minutes a day rinsing out dishes or soaking pans. She had other battles she was fighting as she matured and went through high school that I was probably not aware of, nor privy too. I wanted her to feel she could turn to not only her mother, but to me when she felt overwhelmed by the lines of energy in her life. I wanted her to see me as a person in her life as someone other than the adult who harassed her about dishes.
As I write this, she is in the kitchen eating a bowl of spring salad with chicken. Finishing, I see she is rinsing out her dish. And now she put it in the sink rather than in the dishwasher. It’s a glorious half a cup, which suffices for this day and allows for more tomorrow. (I’m not holding my breath but that’s okay!)
I feel I’ve sown peace at one of the important places it needs to begin in the world. At home.
Sow Peace™….at Home.
Aikido Master & PeaceSower
Paul Rest is a writer, photographer, composer and martial artist. He lives in Bodega Bay, California. He is inspired daily by the beauty of his surroundings and the people in his life.