We left Berkeley before dawn yesterday morning for the aikido seminar in Fresno, so we heard about the shuttle disaster fairly soon after it happened, listening to NPR after giving up on the rest of the spectrum. It is a sad thing, and when the seminar started we took a moment to "let it in" for a little bit, before continuing with our practice. It is also very distant from our experience, and people die all the time more awful deaths in less noble pursuits, blindsided by insane gunmen or car bombs or serial killers as they go about their daily lives all over the world. The wheel turns, tragedy strikes like an unseen anvil on Wile E. Coyote. Let it in for a moment, understand, accept, continue with your practice.
Long day: I woke up before 5am and got home around 11:30pm. Great day, though, with morning and afternoon classes taught by Patrick Cassidy, and then after the classes, three black belt tests, one 1st dan and two 2nd dan. Those were fascinating, since I've never seen black belt tests before and didn't know what to expect. For 2nd dan, at least, the level of mastery is expected to include and go well beyond simply being able to perform a laundry list of techniques with precision--for 1st dan you demonstrate your mastery of the basic movements, and after that I think you demonstrate your connection to the Big Aikido spirit, of which the movements are the physical expression.
I'll get there eventually. Faster, if I don't worry about it.
Patrick-sensei is a wonderful teacher, very peaceful and calm, something of a contrast to Kayla-sensei's vibrant, active energy. I can't really describe his "style" or what we do during his class, because I don't understand it...he doesn't either (I asked him), but he can articulate enough to help us access the kinds of energies he now exercises very naturally. It doesn't matter if you believe in any kind of energy flow in the world or not: aikido is intimately connected with consciousness which is intimately connected with how consciousness interacts with the universer in general and our bodies in particular, and because science has no useful language to speak about the mechanisms of either consciousness or the universe-consciousness connection, "energy" is really the only effective language we have. I and many others feel that energy as a physical force; if you don't, take it as a metaphor and you'll probably feel it eventually.
I had dinner and hanging-out tonight with someone very cool, but who I've not actually spent time talking to and getting to know before. She is connected with the Shadow somehow, and kind of pushes that button; back in the day she was one of the targets for my sort of emotional power-tripping behavior that I'm currently trying to track down and understand. I'm capable of not doing that now, so I don't, and we're able to stand back a little bit and have meaningful adult conversations and find out who we're talking to. Over the years it's turned out we've not actually spent any time together, so it's an odd but nifty experience to get to know someone you've been acquainted with for a while and it turns out you actually get along and have stuff to talk about.
Remember always to pay attention to what you're doing and exist right now in this moment which is the only real thing. Yesterday is gone and doesn't exist, tomorrow is a phantom and doesn't exist yet. Five minutes ago doesn't exist. Just now.
I have two more weeks of being busy before I get to really slow down: a short week of work, flying to Denver for Yet Another Aikido Seminar, then another week, and then. THEN. I have a weekend free. I'm not sure what I'll do, but I think it may well involve a movie matinee followed by a nap. We'll see how it goes.