The moment sensei walked into the dojo I could tell he had something specific to say today.

Here’s the lesson he presented us with.

With some of you I get the feeling you’re sitting there while dreading what might go wrong, dreading that you might show up as being incompetent or uncertain.  When I look around to gauge how everyone’s feeling on a certain day, many of you look everywhere else but at me.  It’s as if you’re saying “Please don’t call on me sensei!”, and yet supposedly you’re here to learn.  What this tells me is your body’s in the dojo, but your thinking mind is somewhere else.

Take an inventory of yourself now.  Is your posture open and expansive? Are you breathing freely and easily?  Is your muscle system relaxed and at ease?  If not, you’re almost certainly not feeling confident.

What are your afraid of?  The attack of your counterpart who is simply performing his half of a training task?  The judgment of people watching who might say you’re clumsy and unskilled?  Or perhaps without realizing it, what you’re fearing most is the attack of your own negative self judgments, your lack of faith in yourself as a competent learner.

What would your life be like if you believed you were a fine person, an intelligent person, an overall good learner?  In other words, what would your life be like if you didn’t think something was wrong with you?  Many of you would be quick to reply, ‘Oh no, not me.’, if someone said you were a wonderful person, and ‘Oh yes that’s me.’, if someone said you had a lot of problems that needed fixing.

I talk to you over and over again about the importance of being fully present in class.  I tell you that just as you take off your shoes and leave them outside the dojo, you also need to do the same with your limiting beliefs.  I know that isn’t easy to do, but ‘easy’ isn’t what we’re concerned with here.  What you need to be concerned with is trusting in yourself, and noticing if you go inside your head searching for negative memories, when you don’t have immediate success.

The principles of Aikido are actually rather simple, but simple does not equal easy.  In fact I have found that doing things simply usually takes a good deal of hard work.  A good deal of practice.  I think part of the reason for this is that we think too much and make things more complicated than they really are. If you start out with a lack of confidence you will expect difficulty.  When you expect difficulty it means your head is already filled with thoughts before you even begin.  The more thoughts you have filling your head, the less you’ll be able to notice what is.  The less you’ll be able to notice the simplicity.

Every accomplished artist, whether a ballerina or a boxer, performs with grace and ease.  They can do this because they’ve pruned away everything that’s not essential to their performance.  They snipped and trimmed until all of the complications and difficulty have been removed.  With less to pay attention to they can give much more attention to what’s left.  Being confident in their ability, there’s no separation between thinking and doing.  There is only One.  [This is the Japanese Samurai maxim – Rigyo Itchi – thought and action make one].

Take an inventory of yourself now.  Is your posture open and expansive?  Are you breathing freely and easily?  Is your muscle system relaxed and at ease?  If so, you’ll have overcome your crisis of faith!