by Black Belt, Len KENSHO Silverston
SHISEI, pronouned “she”-“say”, the Japanese word for “posture” and keeping our center and balance, is a fundamental Aikido principle. How can we apply this principle to our lives? The presidential election is providing us a great opportunity to practice SHISHEI in life. Several studies have come out recently about how this election is resulting in much greater stress.
KUZUSHI is the Japanese word for being “off balance.” It seems that the election process has been a very polarizing contest and is resulting in many of us moving towards our own emotional KUZUSHI.How can we center ourselves? IT IS A CHOICE!Just like we can choose to put attention on our center and then move from our center in our formal Aikido practice, we can practice and choose to be at our center, then move from our center in relation to the election. What does this look like?
When our perspective is completely one sided, we tend to be off balance. When we think we are 100% “right” about reality and we think that our position is the only “right” way to view things, we tend to be off balance. What do we practice in Aikido? Aikdio translates to ‘the way of harmonizing energy’ (‘AI’ means harmonize, ‘KI’ means energy, and ‘DO’ means “the way of”). Thus, our ‘UKE’ (the receiver of our practice and technique) provides us energy with a grab or strike of some fashion. As ‘NAGE’ (the person delivering the aikido technique), we focus on our center, keep our posture, move off the line of the energy coming towards us, and deliver an Aikido technique that is in harmony (‘AI’) with the energy (KI’) coming towards us and which neutralizes and balances the overall energy. In Aikido, we generally don’t block the incoming energy or resist it. It is the art of allowing, accepting, balancing, and harmonizing.
How can we live the way of harmonizing the energy coming towards us regarding this election?I am certainly not going to tell you what to say, who to vote for, who is “right” or “wrong,” or even what to specifically do in a particular situation. However, I want to remind us all (myself included) and suggest that we continue to practice Aikido off the mat during this election period and in life by continuing to place our attention on our center, physically and emotionally. Then when we feel energy coming towards us, whether it is from the media or another person, that we check in at our center and use skillful means to harmonize. This means that we generally don’t block the energy in a forceful manner, provide rigid resistance to it, or tighten up. However, we may choose to “move off the line.”Let’s explore in more detail how can we apply Aikido to the election process. Let’s say that the media, or someone you know, says something negative about the candidate that you are planning to vote for and you do not agree with the statement. Or perhaps you feel someone putting pressure on you to change your opinion. Or you are realizing that you getting pulled into a “soap opera” drama where you feel off balance. What is the first thing we can do? I have asked numerous Aikido masters, “What is the first thing to do in a conflict.” If we have internal stress, there is a conflict. The answers that these Aikido masters gave was “Check your stance. Stop. See what is happening with you. Move to your center.”
This is a similar answer to what many conflict management experts report. The interesting thing is that I conduct seminars on conflict management to many thousands of people and I have found that much less than 10% of people even provide this answer when I ask them, “What is the first thing we need to in a conflict,” and much less act this way when we are in conflict. Thus, we can pause, check in with ourselves, see if there is stress, conflict or ‘KUZUSHI’, and then center ourselves, Then, in order to intelligently respond, one option is to accept the energy from the media or other person. This does not mean that we agree with it. We are simply “accepting it” since it is happening. My understanding from various Aikido masters is that it is important to accept what is happening (or as much of it as we are able to) and then respond appropriately by taking skillful means. If we don’t accept something that is happening, then we move away from reality.
Taking skillful means may mean consciously moving away from the message, or acknowledging the message, or adding to the message, or whatever an appropriate conscious, centered, and useful response may be for that specific situation.The key to being centered during this election time is to take some time to first “stop, check in, and choose to first be at our center,” and then move from our center in harmony. This is Aikido.