Expansive Leadership – Working in Harmony

“True victory is victory over oneself.” — O’Sensei

I had been immersed and educated in the challenge of ongoing personal growth and development of myself and of others for more than 20 years prior to joining Aikido. I had also participated in different martial arts from around the age of 10 to my mid-twenties. I thought, “I’ve been a martial artist since I was a child. I had always heard great things about Aikido and I always wanted to try it out. So, why not?”

I thought I would try it out for the 3 months program special at the dojo and learn a little bit of how to throw people around. As soon as I stepped on the mat that first day, I knew it was in the perfect place for me in my continued growth and development. Aikido is the way to achieve transformation through physical development. When I say physical development, I don’t mean working-out and getting stronger. As my sensei would say, “Through Aikido, you develop your ‘true-self’!” He would say that your “I” or ego/identity is not that true self. What is that “true-self”?

As Morihei Ueshiba (aka O’Sensei), founder of Aikido has said:

“Aikido is not an art to fight with enemies and defeat them. It is a way to lead all human beings to live in harmony with each other as though everyone were one family. The secret of aikido is to make yourself become one with the universe and to go along with its natural movements. One who has attained this secret holds the universe in him/herself and can say, ‘I am the universe.’”

When most of us hear “I am the universe” in the quote above, we say to ourselves, “Yeah, how do I do that?!?” As for me, when I heard that phrase, through my arrogance (and identity) about how much personal growth and development work I have done, I “knew” what O’Sensei meant. However, neither positions give access to the “I am the universe” true-self. One position leaves the person confused and striving for an “answer”; the other position (my arrogance) leaves me with “knowing how it is” and shuts me down from exploring and discovering what’s possible. In my practice on the mat, I found myself bouncing back and forth between these two positions–being too mental or being given by the automaticity of knowledge. You see, an aikidoka can become better (or even great) at doing the techniques and never discover what their true-self is. One can be masterful at doing the techniques with power, harmony/blending, and ground. However, power, harmony/blending, and ground can become just more techniques you learn on the mat. But does it make a difference in what O’Sensei says Aikido is? That is:  “It is a way to lead all human beings to live in harmony with each other as though everyone were one family.”

There are moments while I am training on the mat and actively generating my transformational development, I touch upon what O’Sensei meant. There are moments where I am so present that I touch the everythingness/nothingness of the universe. In those moments, the constant voice in my head telling me who I am, how I should act, and all the things I should be/am worrying about, becomes very quiet. I am left with the vastness of the universe and the pure freedom to be here in the moment. In those moments, I am present to the beauty and awesomeness of humanity–and especially my training partner in front of me. In those same moments, I am connected to everything and at the same time nothing is connected to me as I am all of it. As with all of us human beings, those moments are short-lived and I return to my default identity.

The practice of Aikido isn’t about just reaching for those moments. Those moments gave me access to being connected and related to the human beings on the mat and in my life. It gave me access to being the generator of my life and not being at the mercy of whatever circumstance is out there. If I am the universe, there’s nothing that comes into my life that I can’t be “cause” for! To use a martial arts analogy: if someone physically attacks me, I can be cause that this someone is doing so as an act in MY universe and I can receive his/her energy in loving protection of the attacker. This translates off the mat for me as: anyone in my life (my wife, my children, my extended family, my friends, my work colleagues, or anyone) can sometimes “attack” me with their particular opinions, judgments or assessments,  or positions; and I can be 100% at cause/own their “attacks” and be a listening for creating peace and harmony.

Ultimately, when I generate that I am the universe, there are no attacks. There is only what there is to be and to deal with in the moment!

Have a Great Day!

Thanh Huynh
Leadership, Executive and Life Coach – San Jose, CA – San Francisco Bay Area

If you would like to chat with me about how I can help you move forward in your leadership and life, please email me at thanh@aikileader.com.

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