In 1969, I attended a lecture on meditation in Berkeley, California. It was a nice lecture, but it was what transpired during the question and answer period that profoundly influenced the way I would teach when I started teaching a number of years later. It was during the Vietnam war, and after the lecture, a radical student stood up and said: “Everything you say about inner peace sounds wonderful, but what are you doing about stopping the war?” The lecturer stopped, smiled, and said, “I’m not interested in stopping the war.” The whole audience gasped!
He waited just the right length of time, and then he said: “Every war that has ever been fought was stopped at some point, but a new war comes along after that. I’m interested in starting peace, and that is an entirely different task.” Not stopping the negative, but starting an incompatible positive—that was a profound insight and has affected all my Aikido since then.
In a nutshell, when we are distressed, we constrict or collapse our breathing, posture, and attention -- which leads us to think and act in oppositional, alienated ways. Through replacing the distress response with the physical state of compassionate stability, we interrupt the aggressive reflexes and have a chance to act in more peaceful ways. Aikido allows us to do that.



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