Many years ago, I took a class titled: “Aikido as Spiritual Practice,” taught by Wendy Palmer author of The Intuitive Body: Aikido as a Clairsentient Practice. I had already said “YES!” to Something/Someone/Other, and I was always searching, searching, searching – I continue to search for ways and practices to come closer to the One. Since then, I’ve had a long journey, which has surely taken me to many places, to new teachers and communities. I continue to yearn to be one with the One. Maybe you do, too.
I’m with the Dali Lama about this. Like the Dali Lama, I think that we should each follow the path that our culture, our tradition, our upbringing have provided. For many of us, that is Christian. For others, Judaism, for others, Islam, or Hinduism, and for others, another path that people have followed for all time to find that place, that Holy Place. I am a product of the Christian tradition, as much by culture as anything, although my family had a distinctly negative view of “Church,” based on their experiences as poor, uneducated people. Like all families, we had our stories, carried through the generations. I don’t blame them. “They had their reasons,” is my understanding.
Through all of my exploration, I return again and again to my own tradition, which resonates with me. When I enrolled in Wendy’s classes and began to practice, I had my own language, my own path, to enlighten what I was learning. Sometimes I had to translate, but even that was gratifying. I had a deep need to expand my growing spiritual awareness beyond my mind, to my body, to my Whole Self. I had experienced Rosen Body Work, a hands-on modality that also encourages growth. I added Wendy’s classes.
In the years since I have practiced with Wendy, I have taken two learnings, learnings that have enlightened my life, and which continue to enlighten me – to expand my understanding.
Wendy began every class by announcing a simple “warm-up” movement, almost like a dance. Surrounded by mirrors and the others who practiced, I was often stilted and uncomfortable. Each week, when Wendy would begin the class with “Basic Practice,” I watched her, I watched the others in the room in the mirrors. Was I doing it right? Was I in step with the others? Was I awkward? My busy mind accompanied my body’s movements. One day, as we practiced, something happened – to me (or maybe in me). I stopped looking at the others. I began to move – freely, without regard for my reflection in the mirror. I was free of self-consciousness for those moments, and I felt the movement of my body, separate from my mind. I was a little girl again! I was free! I was free of my own ego, my “comparative mind.” I have never forgotten those holy moments.
The second lesson that has never left me is the practice of Surrender. In my mind, surrender is the heart of any practice, what we strive for but can never achieve by striving. I understand the Gospel story of Jesus to be a chronicle of surrender. In my mind’s eye, I see Jesus as he walked and taught and encountered the crowds who hungered for his words, and as he encountered the Powers that were threatened by his presence, by his teachings. A free person is someone to be feared, after all. A free person will not be bound by convention.
Rather than forcing my own prayer, I began to observe my prayers. Was I asking for something, for what I wanted? When it did not arrive, how did I behave? Was I demanding of the One? Did I insist? Did I bargain? “I’ll do this, if You will give me this…” As I observed myself, I saw that at some point, over time, I let go. I surrendered. I accepted. I accepted what I already had. I was grateful, even if it was something I would not have chosen. Then, and only then, did the Universe move. And then, over time, I witnessed my own Oneness with the Universe.
As I reflect now, I see that these learnings are connected. We practice and practice and practice – prayer is a practice – until we are tired of practicing, and then, we let go. We surrender. We let go of our ego attachment to what it was we want/wanted.
Then, we are free. As you do your work in the world, practice until you are free. It’s all practice.