There’s a current of goodwill, of rightness, clarity, peace and beauty running through and around us all the time. Extending one to the other, connecting us with all other beings, with all there is. It is a quiet, constant movement, an aliveness, an unending choreography inviting us forever into the dance. It is grace.

Can you feel it?

Of course you can’t. Neither can I. We’re humans. There’s way too much shit that’s been building up in our bodies and psyches since babyhood, placed upon us by our people and the world at large, separating us from that beautiful, perfect flow. It’s what the old stories point to about our being fallen. It’s what wisdom traditions acknowledge that we feel separate from, are forever trying to get back to.

It is, in short, the work of being a person. We all have this task. Whatever we think we’re up to, it has roots this project. We’re looking to get back there – to feel that goodness, rightness, connectedness. To be in that place of flow, of freedom, of timelessness. To feel love. To feel loved.

I fibbed when I said I can’t feel it. I do feel it. Sometimes. For an instant here and there on the mat. Yes: an instant. Here and there. Sometimes. A few minutes out of upwards of 300 every week. Most of the time it’s that other thing – that being human thing. That wrestling with whatever segment of the crust of personhood is currently blocking me from the love.

The crust shows itself in many forms, many layers. Usually the layer closest to our skin is the one that keeps asserting itself. The core wound, some call it. The ways we weren’t met as little ones, the ways well-meaning and misguided folks shaped us, and how we seek to feel safe in the world now. Could be fear of conflict or being trapped or challenged or abused. Could be a need to be liked or to control everything. These are our youngest injuries – the ones laid in first and the most relentless to deal with.

The layer farthest out might be what happened to us that day: particularly gnarly traffic, too much time spent staring at a computer, a conflict with someone, a sickness, the weather, a mood. Who knows.

And again (and again and again and again), it’s neither that simple nor that linear. But it is unending. It just is. We’re human. Damn it all, it’s our work. Before I understood this, I did a lot of casting about for how not to have to do it anymore. It wasn’t until I began training that I grasped that we’re going to be up to it until we surrender our human form.

Happily, I’ve also found that aikido is the most direct way to reach through the nonsense and into the light. No analyzing needed. Whatever is up for me is usually embodied, symbolically or literally, by the person attacking me. In other words, I can work with the thing, whatever it is, in real time. Not always “successfully,” not in a way that heals anything in that moment, but in a way that is direct and purposeful (not to mention a lovely alternative to stewing or obsessing or self-distraction or self-destruction).

Those who start practice and stick around have already locked onto this truth, I think. They’ve committed before they knew what they were committing to. It’s been theirs to do all along. All roads have been leading here. Congratulations and welcome. It would have been easier to stay asleep. But you’ve awoken and found this path. Now what?

Thing one: recognize that everyone has this cross to bear (oh how dramatic! But true. Being human is the hardest, hardest thing). We’re none of us assholes; some are just crustier than others. We’re not all plotting how to make one another’s lives more difficult. (Remind me of this, would you, when I’m in my car cursing the moron who is willfully ruining my day by taking too long to cross the street?) We’re all just walking around bearing unbearable loads of wounds, patterns, stories.

At the dojo we can unite in this mutual acknowledgement. Engage in rituals to which we all agree, and which respect and honor this important work we’ve chosen. Bowing alone (about which I hereby threaten to devote many future posts) establishes and reinforces this agreement possibly more than any other partner practice.

Thing two: as much as you can, keep bringing to mind why you’re here, and what life is inviting you into. Know that that flow, that current, that goodness is indeed in you, in others, and in all that surrounds us. It is what connects space-matter to the earth’s molten core. All of it is yours to access and work with if you choose. It’s what we’re doing with technique: it’s why we’re encouraged to keep moving, to keep our feet connected to the sweet and nourishing source of the earth. It’s why we blend and yield and make big, welcoming shapes with our bodies. It’s why we must be direct and even disruptive, carving paths through which the goodness can flow.

We’ve got to be awake all the time. It’s so terribly hard sometimes. It can be the last thing we want to do. But by practicing we honor the All-That-Is because we’re sipping it from that vast and mysterious plane and expressing it through our little selves.

Ideally. Maybe. Some day. But for most of us, no matter how advanced, we’re doing the work of being human. We’re doing it directly, purposely and in a loved and supported way when we’re in the dojo and, more and more, as we walk through our daily lives. As you keep practicing those heavy sacks of old detritus will change shape; get lighter. Every now and again, for a sweet, electrifying instant, you might actually touch grace, and know that it’s the real thing.