In Aikido we strive to 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 minutes before we start feeling pain in our legs and knees. After twenty minutes the pain is excruciating, and we’re quite certain we won’t be able to withstand it for more than another minute, or two at most. After thirty minutes the pain has completely subsided and we feel at ease. Not to worry though, as this feeling won’t last! After forty minutes the pain has returned and is worse than before. 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 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.” “In fact” he would say, “The more you study, the more you realize the term ‘reality’ is a very slippery concept to grasp a hold of. The more you study the more you realize ‘reality’ is whatever you make it out to be.”
“Rather than trying to define reality, I think we can better spend our time studying relativity.” Sensei said. By exploring how each thing, each thought, each feeling, is relative to all the rest of our experience, we can learn a great deal. Relativity teaches us there’s always more than one perspective, always more than one belief, always more than one understanding, in regard to any one single person or event.
The famous scientist Einstein, talked about placing his hand on a hot stove for one minute, and how that minute felt more like an hour. He then talked about sitting with a pretty girl for an hour, and how that hour seemed to pass so quickly. What he describes is very much like the experience of sitting seiza, with our minutes of pain feeling like hours, and our minutes of pleasure, feeling all too short. We manipulate and distort time, and our sense of connection with or separation from, the rest of life.
A human being is one infinitesimal part of an infinitely large universe. A tiny, tiny, something, limited in time and space. When we feel ourselves separate from the rest of life, our pain and suffering increases, along with our distortion of time. When we feel ourselves connected, everything is just as it should be. When I have you sit seiza, I always start by taking down the clock at the back of the dojo. What never ceases to intrigue me, is how many of you over and over again look back for the non-existent clock. With your sense of pain, pleasure, and time so distorted, I wonder what information you’re hoping the clock will provide.
Our belief in and dependence on time, creates a kind of prison that restricts our ability to fully live and experience life. In the course of your study it’s my hope that you’ll begin to free yourselves from this prison, and experience how you share your life, your pain, your pleasure, and your love, with all the rest of the universe. The more you can realize you’re not alone, not separate, the more you’ll realize just how fleeting every moment is. Both the pleasure, and the pain. It’s all to be experienced, appreciated, and then let go, so you’ll be ready for the next experience.