Have I Found What I Was Looking For?

How’d your trip go? Was it everything you expected?

I cannot count the number of times I’ve been asked these questions. After my first return to the aikiki after four long months my response to the common questions shifts, accommodating the changes I notice in my Aikido practice

I look nage and uke in the eye. I later recall that I breathe without need of reminding. My body wants practice and my mouth holds back on muttering, a sign that my mind has let go of “right” and “wrong” and all I understood is practice, play.

Today I go to Aikido for the second time since my return. I easily mute myself as I feel the words slipping from my tongue. Instead of verbal corrections, I select a piece of form or technique for my body and mind to focus on. As nage during the Jo practices, I search for grace and confidence in sidestepping, as the long stick thrusts towards my torso. (Any moment of hesitation and injury is certain.) As uke, I press for firm and maintained connection and awareness of my ma-ai. I surprise myself when I “see” both nage and a fellow student taking ukemi and am able to switch the direction of my roll to avoid collision.

So what does my more relaxed and confident poise and awareness in action say about my trip?

What I discovered on the mat is that somewhere (most likely the entire duration), I cultivated a stronger sense of self both mentally and physically. My smaller frame and boy hips move as a drop in the ocean. My shoulders relax and I look people in the eye. Strangers no longer scare me.

“Did I get what I wanted from my trip? Was it everything I expected?” Or, as an insightful marine in Mississippi directed me at his departure, “I hope you find what you’re looking for and more.”

I don’t remember what I was looking for, but I certainly found it and more. It’s kind of like going into the grocery store for milk and coming out with honey, mud and all the accoutrements of a spa. And I’m completely stoked that I decided to take another chance at the dojo, where I am able to feel the difference. The challenge will be to keep up the practice and not let the Portland rain and doldrums get me down again.

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