How Aikido helps me deal with loss.
About a year ago I lost both my best friend (she died of cancer) and my Grandmother (natural causes). That month was a dark time for me. They were two of the people that I leaned on when I needed someone to talk to. They have been gone for a year and I miss them.
There are discussion threads in many places about whether or not Aikido is “effective”; typically they are talking about it being martially effective. I don’t want to get into that here (though I know it is effective if you have learned how to do it, just like any other art)… what I do want to do is tell you how it has worked for me.
People talk about how Aikido is about moving around conflict to control it in such a way that everyone stays safe. It turns out, however, that while it seems Aikido is about controlling situations, in many ways it is more about moving with change so that it does not become conflict. It is about seeing new situations coming and being able to move with them, choosing how you will respond. You can react in anger and with force, or you can choose to just step out of the way. The practice of Aikido gives me a way to face my emotions in the situation and respond intentionally.
A year ago I was dealing with a great deal of loss. Today I am dealing with the memory of that loss. That loss was a huge change and a threat to my well-being. Without having the strong practice of moving in changing situations I think I would be lost. I no longer have two key members of my support network here with me. What I do have, however, is a way to remind myself that I can control the change.
Every time I step on the mat I practice how to move towards the situation and move with it rather than being frozen by it. I am not always perfect at this, but I get to keep trying. As my uke begins his attack I can choose to enter into the conversation, choose my response, and keep moving through the situation. It is a metaphor for me encountering each day without my loved ones, facing the day, moving through it and continuing on. This is helping me see that I can move with this memory of change and continue forward with my head up looking for what is coming next. In this too, I can choose if I see the next partner (uke) or event as an attack, or I can choose to see the opportunity.
Whenever I get sad I can drop into individual practice, simply turning in place finding my connection to myself and my purpose. I can also work with someone else and remember how life is about moving through the world with others. For me, Aikido works at something far more important than most of those “discussion threads” touch on. Aikido helps me understand myself and my relationship to others and the universe.