I AM BEAUTIFUL. That was a sub theme of a gasshuku, which Bill Burtis reminded me was in California in 1990. I am a slow but steady learner. Why could I not say that to myself or feel it in anyway? This was beyond me; it took years of life and Shintaido practice to finally understand—even beyond understanding. I now feel the truth and realize the universal truth that comes with the realization that yes, I AM BEAUTIFUL. WE ALL ARE BEAUTIFUL. We are perfectly imperfect. And that is okay. This is part B of the story that helped me to a new awareness. Part A: The Joy of Love appeared in a previous Body Dialogue.
After my brain biopsy, I woke up in recovery. After lying in isolation with all the beeps and hospital noises filling my senses, praying and trying to just be and feel and experience whatever it was that I was supposed to experience, I was transported to a place that is so difficult to describe—perhaps a poet could describe it more clearly—but I will do my best to put into words something much larger and more beautiful and incredible. I was in a place of infinite space, there was a web that stretched out in all directions and in that web was a place that was mine. I was connected by the web to everything and everybody. When one part of the web vibrated, the whole web was affected. The stuff of the web was made up of Love. That is what connects us together. Nothing can happen to any part of the web without the entire web being affected. This was ALL SHOWN TO ME BY GOD (HIGHER POWER) THE UNIVERSAL ENERGY. For the purpose of this article I choose to refer to this presence as God. Anyway, God showed me this wonder of Heaven, the interconnectedness of everything and everybody.
I have to go back for a second here. Back in Worcester, before they sent me to Boston, I was privileged to have friends, both old, long-time ones and people and relatively new ones express to me their love and gratitude for my place in their lives. I heard things that most people only hear said of others at a funeral or gravesite. What a blessing.
So I am back with God in heaven. My life rolled in front of me and God asked what I thought. I considered and felt that I was content and pleased with my life so I told God that I could stay. I considered my life well spent. I could stay in that place of connection and love. God then showed me a vision: a V-plow with God in front of the V and me behind and in the opening of the V. God went on to explain that I was able to do okay with the little bit of His grace that managed to get over the V that was blocking me from His grace. What would could happen if I were able to open the closed end of the V and funnel the full grace into and through me? He had me then. I agreed to go back. He said that it would not be easy but I figured, what the heck, what is easy anyway. So I decided to return. Before I returned I asked: What is it that is holding the point of the V together? That is the bondage of SELF was the answer. It is all the lies you tell yourself about yourself. You are not enough. You are lacking here and there, you are giving away your power to a false self. Your true self, the God-given expression, that essence, is there inside of you waiting and wanting to BE, and God wants nothing more than for each and every one of us to live it. We just have to get out of the way.
Now when I open up to the heavens in Tenso, Ahh, my hands and fingers and heart/soul open and gratefully receive and funnel the Grace of God, nurturing my True self and truly connect with all that is. The Body is and can be the message of the Universe.
I do not mean to indicate that, in some way, I have arrived. I just have a newer awareness to help me move more (hopefully) gracefully through life. Through this whole process of restoration to health, I realize that, way back, I was guided to Shintaido to help me move and grow through all of my life’s situations. I did not realize what a reserve of energy, support and true feelings of connection I had being part of me. I was so blessed to have countless Tenshingosos, scores of Wakames, Hikaris, Eikos, and numerous, wonderful Kumites to tap into inside of myself. Thank you all for being part of my life. I AM BEAUTIFUL, YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL, WE ALL ARE BEAUTIFUL.
When we drove away from the Shintaido class at the South County Senior Center in South Deerfield recently, Stephen said something like: “That is so inspiring. I always feel great after that class.” I have to agree with him. I am teaching the class and Stephen is assisting me.
The class ranges from 4 to 8 participants; all women and all in their sixties or seventies. Shintaido always seems to work its magic. As the teacher, I often leave work, drive home and get myself to the class feeling a little rushed and tired. Afterwards I feel clear and uplifted. We have come to see by their regular attendance that these seniors are also enjoying themselves and the spirit of Shintaido.
The center is an older building right in the center of town. When we practice inside, we have to move the tables and chairs of the big room to the side to make some space. When the weather is beautiful as in the past few weeks, we set up outside under the shade of two big maple trees.
We always start in a circle sitting on chairs. We concentrate on our breathing and then move into seated warmups. Soon we are up and at it – warming up, stretching, doing balancing exercises. I originally thought that would be about all we would do but I soon recognized that this is a hale and hearty group.
I have surprised myself by what I have been teaching. These women are not afraid to use their voices and they enjoy the sounds and movements of Tenshingoso. We have practiced wakame and other soft movements, but also enjoy stepping, cutting and most recently Tsuki!
The classes last approximately one hour. We asked if they would prefer six or eight-week sessions but they all want to keep going. We may take a break in August, but otherwise we will continue the class on an ongoing basis.
It is true that some seniors have physical limitations, but everyone in this group seems very self-aware and able to work within their limitations and of course, Stephen and I are careful and make adjustments as necessary.
Who knows if some of these seniors will become active and participate in the larger Shintaido community? I hope so, but I am also quite content to continue this lovely weekly practice.
The most surprising thing for me is how very like any other Shintaido class this class is. It is the transformation that comes from connecting with heaven and earth and with one another that gives a meaningfulness to our movements and our practice together.
The following message was sent by General Instructor Pierre Quettier to attendees at France’s recent national Shintaido event for instructors and assistants. The event was intended to strengthen the relationship among faculty through in-depth practices and discussions on matters of teaching. We are republishing it here as an inspirational message to all Shintaido instructors and practitioners. [Body Dialogue editor.]
Reaching the Shodan / Jun-shidoin (Graduate) level of a Shintaido curriculum (Bojutsu, Karate, freehand Shintaido, and now, Kenjutsu) means that one now possesses all the elements of action and meaning to deepen its study and its application in the dojo and in various situations of everyday life.
To give gorei in Shintaido, means in the strict sense, “to give the tempo of the collective action” (counting aloud) and more broadly “to order the beginning or the stop of the action,” and “to decide the nature of action,” directing the action of a group of people (including oneself) in the course of personal development.
If one chooses to study and apply Shintaido while directing such a group, one creates in a certain fashion “squared Shintaido” (Shintaido²) . To make “squared Shintaido” implies that the gorei becomes our means of personal artistic expression and at the same time a privileged space to improve ourselves by ourselves and by and for the group by means of the common language of practice.
In such a symbolic and collective space everything makes sense and the limits are the ones we give ourselves.
Everything makes sense because the practical space (the dojo), the relational space (the micro-society of the group) and the cultural space (the field of references of the group) are connected in multiple ways, explicit and implicit. The learning of the group occurs only if these different dimensions come into resonance, in coherence.
In all of these situations, the responsibility of the goreisha is very significant.