by Ea Murphy
In the south, where I grew up, there was an understated mythology perpetrated about New York City. People talked about this foreign metropolis in hushed whispers of disdain or longing. It loomed larger than life, and was reputed to be meaner, faster, scarier, and louder than anything a southern girl could handle.
I don’t know why these rumors existed. Since I’ve been in Brooklyn, I’ve found nothing but kindness in the caress of iriminage and stillness in the mornings of zazen. Brooklyn is also incredibly clean – people zokin the floors many times a day. Of course, I haven’t really yet left the dojo. Within the walls of Brooklyn Aikikai, there is a vast world to explore and discover.
In the weeks I’ve been here, I feel myself being kneaded, shaped, and molded into something different. I am used to working hard – that is nothing new. I have been a student; I have trained in aikido. The thread that weaves this all together, though, when living in the dojo, brings new meaning to all these pursuits. From the morning offerings to the kami, to the ringing of the han in the evening, there is a motivation other than my own interests. And, in and of an instant, I suddenly disappear and simply trust the rhythm of the dojo.
Recently, I have been struggling with how to make aikido work in my everyday life. I have jostled, prodded, pushed, and wedged the pieces of family, career, recreation, finances to make room for aikido. I have refused to budge or give up any part of my training. I drive miles and miles and squeeze minutes out of hours and days to satisfy this insatiable thirst.
During class, sensei scolded us, “You can’t expect to just come on the mat and do aikido”. You have to take care of your body, your life…you have to be attentive throughout your day. Oh…it hit me like a kokyunage…aikido and everyday life. I thought I had heard that before. But, in a flash, I actually felt it. There is no separation on and off the mat. Living in the dojo, this is the constant practice, reinforced by a weariness and exhaustion that puts the ego to sleep. Going home, this is the glowing ember I must carefully tend and feed.
I am incredibly grateful to the fire that burns in Brooklyn Aikikai, and the incredible community of people who give so much of themselves to keep it bright and hot. It is touching and inspiring to witness it for a moment. Who knew that in the mythical New York City I had heard about growing up, I would find such kindness, open-heartedness, and connection. Gassho.