Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cultural Aikido

I went to bed after writing last night's blog posting, and woke up thinking about "chi" (or "ki", in the Japanese).

Ki is the energy that moves everything, and is in everything. Rei-ki is universal energy (and Reiki is the practice of balancing that energy), Ai-ki-do is the martial art of avoidance--the way of not resisting energy. And it was this latter aspect of ki/chi that I was thinking about.

I took karate for many years (shito-ryu). Occasionally our Shihan would teach us something outside of that form, and one thing he taught us about was using chi or ki in a defensive situation. Try this sometime--stand opposite someone, and put your hands up, palms facing outward. Now, you and your partner should push against each other's hands.

What's the first thing you do? It becomes a reverse tug-of-war, you just keep pushing, trying to push them back. Stop doing that. Instead, feel out where their force is coming from, and yield to it. What happens? Your partner falls to the ground. This might definitionally be considered "aikido"--you overcame your partner by not resisting his or her energy.

This applies to any energy application, not just physical combat. It applies to mental and emotional energy. And it goes against our survival instinct, and our sense of reason. When threatened, we automatically defend by pushing back. When we read something that angers us, we lash out equally in anger. Force is seen as equal to strength, and those who yield are perceived as weak in our culture. This is why most of our public forums have turned into angry, threatening shouting matches. Everyone gets hurt, and no one wins.

So how do we "yield" when confronted with that kind of craziness? Some might argue that you have to get angry and stand up--and sometimes that is the right response, as long as it's followed by productive and beneficial action. But the rhetoric is like a fire, and the more you feed it, the bigger it gets. You yield by not feeding the fire. Some crazy idiots on a street corner hurling racial epithets, talking about burning Qu'rans and blathering about our "totalitarian" government? Yelling back does nothing. They should be allowed to say their piece, and no one should do anything about it. The media shouldn't cover it, we shouldn't get excited about it. Unfortunately, we usually do the opposite. So, things that should not be given credibility end up getting center stage. And more people get whipped up into a frenzy, feeding the fear machine.

There's a lot of fear these days. The Republican party has been taken over by people so crazy that George W. Bush starts to look moderate, and the Democrats are cowering in their corner, or running around like chickens with their heads cut off. Everyone is shouting "The sky is falling!" And, just like the Chicken Little story, the sky isn't falling at all. The response on both sides is motivated by fear of change.

What causes fear? Pushing back. Defending ourselves against our unseen enemy. Or, picking a scapegoat and calling that the enemy--easier to fight something you can label. The only way to stop the craziness at its root is to stop being afraid. Of life, of change, of different things happening. You notice that I didn't say "bad" things, or "good" things. There are only "things" that happen. Whether they are good or bad depends on how you perceive them.

But we can't avoid media. Even if you don't watch television, it's in your face when you turn on your computer. It's everywhere. And if a headline catches your eye and gets you worked up, now you are in the fray, you are pushing back. All of us get sucked in at one time or another. It's the automatic response.

Words are powerful. Journalists know this, governments know this, salespeople know this. "Spin" is an art. "Spin" moves this thing we call an economy--an effective spin will convince you to buy things you may not need, and put money into the marketplace. It can also be used to breed fear. If you want to stop being afraid and confused, try stepping back instead of getting angry the next time you read something you find frightening. Don't fight it, observe it, and move on your way. If it concerns you enough, research the facts. Most of these sensational things thrown in your face aren't true, or are barely true.

And--on a grand scale--none of it is "true". We live in a world of hallucinations and phantoms. It's just a big game, and you figure out what your role is, and how to play it--and remember that it's only a role. The only "truth" is the one you get from yourself, when you've quieted down your chattering mind. It has no logic and no plan, but it mysteriously turns up when you need it--if you pay attention to it.

No comments: