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Nowhere, Nothing, No-one

Nowhere, Nothing, No-one

by Lynn Seiser

The article below does not necessary reflect the point of view on Aikido of our club Aikikai Gent. However, we think these articles provide really ‘food’ for deeper thought on Aikido and it’s value.
This article appeared on the forums of aikiweb

Breathe in, nowhere
Breathe out, nothing

I grew up as an auditory learning, trying to sound things out and trying to spell phonetic phonetically as I was instructed to. Perhaps because of this early frustration and failure in learning strategy, I have an interest and curiosity in phonetic ambiguities. Just because something sounds alike, does not mean it is spelled and means the same thing.

No and know are words that express the dichotomy of phonetic ambiguity. They sound exactly alike but mean incredibly different things.

No: (1) a form of stylized Japanese drama, (2) indicating a negative response, (3) acknowledging a negative statement, (4) indicating disbelief, and (5) not to accept or refuse

Know: (1) to hold information in mind, (2) to be certain about something, (3) to realize or comprehend something, (4) to recognize differences and familiarity, and (5) to identify by a characteristic

“No” when used with another word, negates it, and as an assertion it draws boundaries. “Know” implies an internal cognitive process of understanding.

Nowhere: (1) not in or to any place, (2) a remote or insignificant place, (3) to fail to make any progress with something you are trying to do, (4) not at all or a long way from being a particular thing

I once heard “Where ever you go, there you are” and “Everyone has to be somewhere”.

We often ask, “Where am I” meaning my present physical geographical location or how much progress have I made from where I started and where I want to be.

Nowhere negates where we are. On one level, if we think we are nowhere, we may feel lost. Thinking we have to be at a specific place in our lives. Perhaps society teaches us that at a certain age we should have accomplished certain things, judged by certain criteria, and in comparison, we are nowhere close. Being nowhere close, means we are nowhere, because where we are is not where we want to be.

In aikido, we start as a white belt, a beginner. It takes courage and humility to show-up, suit-up, and bow-in. There is a specific place for us to learn, the dojo. We are someone and we are some place. There are other people to train with so we are not alone. In the course of training, we lose ourselves and we find ourselves.

Love is like that too. It takes great courage and humility to be available and vulnerable to another person and trust that they will not hurt us. While love heals, it also brings up all the wounds that need healing. We can repeat, recreate, and reinforce old wounds and ways of dealing with them or we can learn new ways. In love, we lose ourselves and we find ourselves.

First, we know where we are, based on our history. Then we are lost, we are nowhere. In the end, we are now-here and we know-where we are.

Nothing: (1) not anything, (2) something of no importance, (3) not having quality, (4) zero amount, (5) state of non-existence

In western psychology and society, we are taught that it is important to have high positive self-esteem, to strive always to feel good about ourselves. We are taught always to be busy and that we are what we do. We only have importance or quality as human-doings not as human-beings.

We all want to be something, to do something with our lives, and to mean something to others. The more specific we can be about the something we want to be, the better chances we have of find a way to become it. The basis of philosophical is the existential questions of who I am and what am I here for? With all the existential struggle and angst, we still feel alone.

In Aikido, we start as white belts, beginners, with beginner’s minds. While beginner’s mind are supposed to be emptied from past experience and open to learning, they are usually so filled with so many things that they are closed to new learning and experience. The more we train, the more we lose ourselves and our agendas in the training, the more we empty our mind and the more we learn.

In love, we start as two separate individuals feeling empty inside, looking for someone or something to fill the emptiness. Somehow we always think that emptiness is some-how wrong and needs to be corrected. Yet, it is our emptiness that creates a space for others to come into our lives. Their emptiness creates a place for them to come into ours.

In nothingness, we learn something; we become someone with someone else.

No-one: (1) no-body

In a reductionistic world, we are always trying to find out who we are and what our authentic self is. We cling hard to a sense of individual identity. We cannot image a world without us in it. Everything rotates around us much as we used the belief that the universe rotated around the Earth. Everything is self-referenced. Developmentally this ego-centric thinking is appropriate for a two-year old or an adolescent.

I was taught that lower level of logic and creating distinct categories were more exclusive (more differences and more distinctions) while higher levels of logic were more inclusive (more similarities and sameness). We can become more than one (the many) or we can take the many and create the one.

We can go either way in counting. If it is not one, perhaps it is two, three, or more. We believe that we wear so many hats, being so many people to so many other people. The more we become; perhaps the easier it is to lose who we are. If we go the other way in counting, if we are too many things, perhaps we can find the ultimate authentic genuine one/self that we can truly claim as the someone we are. What comes after the number one? Zero. Nothing. Perhaps we have stopped one subtraction point too soon.

All mystics have sought to overcome the dichotomy of duality and to enter and blend, becoming one with the whole. Every day we have the choice to see the difference and separation or the sameness and connectedness. Do we mentally sort for the parts or the whole?

In Aikido and in love, or any opportunity we choose, we have the opportunity to lose ourselves and to find ourselves. We lose ourselves by stepping out of old fears and patterns of behaviors that may not serve us well and begin to practice new thoughts and behaviors that may at least have the possibilities of creating something new. In finding what does not work (failure), we often find what does work (success).

Are we nowhere or are we now-here? Are we nothing or are we many-things and we know the value of emptiness? Are we no-one (I) or do we know who we are and we know when others are by far more important than our little learned ego identity?

Breathe in, know-where and now-here
Breathe out, know-thing