Horsey Therapist

Thursday, January 24, 2008

More life lessons from Aikido?

I have done a good job throughout my life avoiding feeling vulnerable. I'm not saying that is the best thing a person can do, but I've been good at it. Defenses are sophisticated enough that I have succeeded in many areas of life. Actually learning to successfully defend myself however was not one of those life skills I have learned.

I have defenses but cannot defend myself? What am I talking about?

My well-honed defenses are intellectual and emotional defenses. What I lack is knowledge of is how to defend my body from harm.

Aikido is a great deal about defending one's body from harm. I hardly have a cringe reflex in class when a practice partner is attacking me. What's with that?!

After shedding some tears and doing chores, eating a late dinner and getting some sleep, I woke up today with a clearer brain. Last evening I felt overwhelmed with what seemed like utter chaos in the teaching/learning process of Aikido. A predictable ritual and pattern at the start and end of class, and most everything in between is new and challenging, out of my comfort zone and overwhelming. So what do I do? I keep breathing, surrendering any thoughts that pop up other than "I am here to learn, it's ok that I don't know what I'm doing, I keep my mind open, I keep trying my best, all I can do is do it and someone will help me ..." I can move myself into an "I can" zone, even if I don't know what it is I can do. I lay my trust in my teachers and fellow students with more experience, and practice, practice, practice.

One thing that is hard for me is being shown how to do something 'better' (my word, not theirs) when I don't really know what I'm doing to begin with -- block with your right arm coming straight up. What did I do? I didn't do that? Ok, no time to think that through just do it again, hoping the newest bit of feedback has sunk in someplace so that I do something different.

It's not my preferred way to learn something! I would rather be given smaller pieces of information and gain some sense of what I'm doing before adjusting or adding to what I'm learning. In fact I am learning despite this, but gosh it is hard. A sense of competence -- is that allowed? Why does feeling incompetent disturb me so?

I got thinking how hard it is for our horses to learn, and how common it is to present so much new information that they just bumble through fudging it as best they can. I hope I am as present and kind as my Aikido compadres when I refine requests of my horses so they can give an answer closer to what I'm wanting.

Should I speak to Sensei and ask that my learning style and speed be considered? Most of the other students are somewhere in their 20s and 30s, with a few in their 40s I suppose. Do I speak up or do I 'trust the process', knowing full well I am taking these classes for growth in who-knows-what directions, who-knows-what realms!

I was pleased that in my morningmind (generally clear and insightful upon waking) I could recall most of the sequences of what we practiced last evening in class. I certainly couldn't after class! I guess I have to adjust my notion of 'practice' -- I would have said it means improving something I'm learning through actual or mental imagery repetition. Last evening I would have defined 'practice' to mean bumbling and fumbling in a chasm of not knowing and chaos, on the edge of mental and emotional revolt. I am seriously stretching my comfort zone -- learning a language without a bilingual dictionary. Words fall short of describing the distress and vulnerability I was feeling.

And today I'll be off soon to the comfort of predictable activities: foaming around windows, hanging sheetrock, and splitting wood. Ah, what a relief!


At 25 January, 2008 00:30, Blogger Pam said...

Wow, Lasell, I've been meaning to write you and ask how Aikido has been going and if you're as overwhelmed by it as I am! I've experienced the same things, I've been the only beginner and woman the last two weeks and trying so hard to learn but feeling very incompetent. I hate it too. But the guys see when I get frustrated and tell me I'm doing fine, it takes thousands of repetions to get these moves right and I'm doing a great job considering I've been practising the move for a whole 15 minutes now! I thought I'd be better at it because of intellectually knowing what the goal is and using these things in riding, but its so different in the dojo, yet so the same. I love watching Sensei show how to do things and then I can see how powerful soft is. And as you say, I couldnt keep the moves with me after leaving since they're different every week. This week I did remember one and have been mentally practising. I love it and want to continue, but it is challenging. Your comparison to a horse learning really struck home with me, great thing to keep in mind.

At 04 February, 2008 12:30, Blogger Victoria Cummings said...

Hi LJB - Thanks for stopping by to visit my blog. Sorry for the confusion and yes, I've been busy posting. I really admire your efforts with Aikido. I keep saying that i'm going to start - I even know the Sensei here pretty well, but it's that fear of falling which keeps holding me back. How is your husband feeling? I hope all is going well for both of you.


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