Butch Hancock said that at the end of one his shows at the Cactus Cafe in Austin. I’ve been thinking about it ever since. And since love is one of the themes of the season — or should be, anyway — it’s a good time to talk about what it means.
I agree with Butch’s instruction. If everyone approached life that way, the world would be an amazing place. But it’s hard to do. I myself have a long list of people I find it very difficult to love — and that doesn’t include the people I’m willing to love as long as I don’t have to spend much time with them.
Still, I believe approaching others with love and compassion has the potential to change the world. That’s what I’ve learned in my many years of studying the martial art of Aikido and my fewer years studying Qigong.
It may seem contradictory to think of love in connection with a martial art, but that’s the beauty of what Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido also known as O Sensei, taught. Linda Holiday Sensei, in her recent book on Aikido Journey to the Heart of Aikido: The Teachings of Motomichi Anno Sensei, says that O Sensei “presented a profound paradox.”
O Sensei was an “invincible martial artist,” Holiday Sensei writes, but he taught “‘the essence of budo [the martial way] is love.”
That is, he took the principles of warriorship, which provide good guidance for living, and transformed them into something greater. He said many profound things, among them “The true meaning of the term samurai is one who serves and adheres to the power of love.”
I bet those people who think of samurai as ultimate fighters have trouble wrapping their heads around that one.
Here’s another saying from O Sensei:
If your heart is large enough to envelop your adversaries, you can see right through them and avoid their attacks. And once you envelop them, you will be able to guide them along the path indicated to you by heaven and earth.
The more I train, the better I get at figuring out how to see through my attackers and guide them along the right path. However, it is easier to do this on the training mat than it is to apply to handling the conflicts of daily life, which are rarely physical and involve miscommunication and differing ideas about right and wrong.
In the last few years I have been studying Sheng Zhen Gong, a form of Qigong taught by Master Li Junfeng. Qigong is an ancient Chinese form of healing movement and meditation, according to the Sheng Zhen website, and Sheng Zhen Gong is the “Qigong of unconditional love.”
Unconditional love. Now there’s a challenge. It’s hard enough to love family and friends unconditionally, much less the rest of the world.
But, of course, the beauty of both Aikido and Qigong is that they provide a practice that helps you develop those feelings of love. That is, loving others is a byproduct of practice. It isn’t something you decide to do; it’s something you do because after years of training you feel that way.
Or you start to feel that way, at any rate. I still struggle with it. But I struggle a lot less than I used to.
As you spend time with family and friends during this holiday season, practice a little unconditional love. And try to take a little bit of it with you into 2014.