“We-dentity” in the dojo

1. Introduction

I went out for the first time in a while this weekend.
Turns out that I went to two parties in the same day!
I met some friends that I have known for more than 20 years here in Japan, and made a few new friends as well.

AND, I got to play blues harp with a band, at each party!
Wow, what a great day and night I had!

All of which leads me to contemplate the importance of being in community.
For me, I couldn’t live without it.

Thanks so much for being a part of the Seishindo community. I write for you!

Warmly,
Charlie

2. “We-dentity” in the dojo

The slippers each student wears from the changing room to the dojo are meant to be neatly lined up at the dojo door. If necessary, when you enter the dojo you tidy up any slippers left askew. You do this, because after a while it feels unsettling to see slippers out of place. You also do this because you know sensei sends a student to make sure everyone and everything is ready, before making his way to the dojo. Neatly lined up slippers is a way of saying “We are ready to receive your lesson.”

As sensei enters the dojo, everyone bows in unison while offering him a greeting.
When sensei is ready to start the class, he takes his position at the front of the dojo and begins by bowing to us. Once again, everyone is meant to bow in unison, but now sensei begins to actively “tune” the group. So if the bowing rhythm of even one student is off sensei will bow again, requiring each student to sense whether or not they’re moving with the flow of the group. It’s similar to playing in an orchestra. It’s not acceptable to play your part as you wish. To do so would create noise, rather than music. Sensei is the conductor, and without any sheet music to read, you’re meant to feel the flow, and attune to sensei and the group.

When the warm-up exercises begin, each student moves and calls out in unison,
“One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four.”
Little by little group mind starts to coalesce, as everyone counts and breathes in the same rhythm.

When he’s in the mood to teach a bit of theory, sensei might say,
“People that breathe together tend to think and act alike. Group breathing leads to group mind and group mind leads you to understand you’re not alone, you’re not separate.”
“You share the oxygen in the room with everyone, and when you breathe together you send a wave of “ki” out into the universe.”
“There’s no better way to dissolve dissension than to breathe in harmony with your adversary Sensing you’re both part of the same One, fighting mind is less likely to manifest.”

At some point, with everyone standing, more complex movements are initiated.
Specific placement of the feet and soft circular movements of the hips and arms are punctuated with a strong clear count.
“One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four”
As the feet, hips, and arms move to the rhythm of the counting.
“One, two three four. One, two, three, four.”
Everyone moving together, counting together, and breathing together.
Everyone shaping their individual activity to match and meld with the activity of the others.

As the group’s energy coalesces the mind of the group becomes One.
Movement, stillness, inhale, exhale. Movement, stillness, inhale, exhale.
“One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four.”
Group action leads to group mind and a sense of compassion for those around you.

You sense that “I” is much less powerful than “We”.
You sense that “I” is always embedded in “We”.
You sense the power of individual minds melding into group mind,
In the same way that countless drops of water move together to form a wave.

You realize attacking requires becoming separate.
Becoming separate, you lose the power of “We”
With no “We” there’s only “I”.
When there’s only “I” you’re no longer part of the wave,
You exhaust and overwhelm yourself, fighting against the flow you were once part of.
And when the tide recedes, you feel lucky to find yourself clinging to the beach.

Life is here to offer you much more than survival.

By joining in solidarity with others, “we” can create a world that is compassionate, collaborative, and plentiful.

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