In Aikido we strive to find ways to leave our habits behind and experience the world from a “simple mind” perspective. A task that is much easier said than done. We do things like sitting in seiza for an hour at a time. With our legs folded underneath us it doesn’t take but five or ten minutes before we start feeling pain in our legs and knees.
After twenty minutes the pain is excruciating, and we’re quite sure we won’t be able to withstand it for more than another minute or two. After thirty minutes the pain has completely subsided and we feel at ease. Not to worry though, as this feeling will not last. After forty minutes the pain has returned with a vengeance! After fifty minutes we begin to feel blissful and praise ourselves for having gone through whatever it takes to cross over to the promised land!
“Such is your everyday mind.” sensei would say. “One moment you feel life couldn’t be worse, and the next moment you can’t even remember what your pain was all about. You make it all up, the good and the bad, and your experience has little if anything to do with reality.” “Indeed,” he would say, “When you sit seiza, doesn’t it become clear that the pain is in your head, and not in your legs? Or actually, it’s more accurate to say you manufacture the pain in your head with just a little bit of input from your legs.”
“And why is it,” sensei would ask, “That no matter how hard you try, you can’t make the pain go away? Yet at some point without any directions from ‘you’, all of a sudden the pain is gone! Doesn’t that make you feel a bit foolish?” “Tell the pain to go away, order it to go away, and it says ‘No thank you.’ But then at some point, and you never seem to know when or how, all of a sudden with a mind of its own, the pain disappears. If you learned to control your thinking mind, then you would also learn to control your pain.”
“The longer you study, the more I hope you’ll realize ‘reality’ is a very slippery concept to grasp. The more you study the more you’ll realize you don’t understand what ‘reality’ is. Or perhaps it’s better to say, you’ll come to realize that reality is an illusion. You see, ‘reality’ and ‘pain’ are very much alike. Both are just figments of your imagination. Inventions of your thinking mind. Do you realize for instance, that when you look at and make sense out of something, 10% of the information comes from your eyes, and 90% of the information is made up inside your head. And that’s not just my opinion, my reality, that’s what research scientists say after many years of study.”
“Part of the reason why I sometimes have you sit seiza for long periods of time, is because I want you to realize your thinking mind is like an undisciplined child. The undisciplined child cries and cries for what he or she wants, and then once they are clear they aren’t going to get what they want, the child finally shuts up, and usually falls asleep shortly thereafter.”
“When we sit seiza I see most of you are crying out inside yourself. Some of you actually give up, get up, and go home. But if you stay, at some point you realize you’re not going to get what you want by crying. When you finally stop crying and accept what is, the pain you’ve manufactured inside your head goes away, and you get what you’ve been wanting after all! Such is life. Cry less, and try less, and you’ll get much more!”