Couldn’t we all use a little more energy from time to time? I know I could. Right now, for instance, as I sit with a blanket over my shoulders, sipping lemon tea and hoping that the next coughing spasm is not as ferocious as the last two, I could use a gift of energy. The tickle that started in my nose and chest a few days ago has blossomed into a full-blown, body-wracking cold, complete with chills and fever.
The martial art Aikido (The Way of Harmony) teaches us to see everything that comes our way as energy to be danced with. By centering and extending our ki (life energy) we connect and blend with the energy of attack, making it a part of us. We redirect it from center, keeping ourselves and our attacker safe from harm.
How this elegant metaphor applies to situations in our personal and professional lives is a continuing source of study and fascination for me. One of the ways I work at integrating Aiki principles into my life is by sharing the philosophy with others. My workshops use physical exercises which help our bodies remember how to do things like center, extend, acknowledge and blend. We begin to dance, flow and move with the energy of conflict instead of blocking it.
So I sit, wondering how I can dance with this attack. Even centering doesn’t stop the incessant coughing. I have no ki to extend (it seems to have retreated to the innermost recesses of my system). The only thing I can think to do is to acknowledge and embrace.
But that, at least, is a beginning. In years past, I would not acknowledge being sick. When I was sick, I’d often go to work anyway. I plowed through what needed doing with half a spirit and wore myself out. I probably infected half a dozen others in the process. I was sometimes ill-tempered, depressed and depressing to be around. If I can’t acknowledge what’s going on, whether it’s a cold or a problem at home, I surely can’t embrace it. By this I mean make it a part of me, connect with it so that I can begin to look for solutions.
Most of our conflicts, internal or external, would resolve themselves if we would only take this first step – acknowledge them! But because we see them as negative, we immediately resist by fighting or fleeing. If I can see what comes my way as energy, with no positive or negative charge other than what I give it, I can be more curious about it. As unwanted as it may be, there’s definitely more power in dancing with it than in resisting it.
As for my cold, I’m still trying to learn if there’s a gift here somewhere. Let’s see – I’ve already read a book I’ve been putting aside for months, started another, and gotten some much needed rest (in between coughs!). I may not always know what the energy offers, but when I can ask the question “Where’s the gift?” I’ve taken a step in a new direction.