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Ignorance, Intelligence, Integrity

Ignorance; Intelligence, Integrity

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, ignorance
Breathe out, intelligence

I used to be a big fan of the garbage-in-garbage-out principle and process. It gave me permission to treat people as badly as they treated me and gave them permission to treat me as badly as I treated them. It perpetuated itself, just like a virus. You would think that it would work with positives too, that we would treat each other as positively as we were treated. Some processes appears to only be a one-way street and I certainly do not like the direction this one is heading.

So maybe the garbage-in-garbage-out is not a great idea unless the only thing we want to cultivate, facilitate, and perpetuate is garbage. There has to be some way to make transformative and generative change.

ignorance: (1) lacking knowledge or comprehension, (2) illiterate — a lack of learning, (3) lack of awareness

The Buddhists accept life has suffering and suffering comes from ignorance. By not being aware and mindful, garbage-in-garbage-out becomes ignorance-in-ignorance-out. Within the multi-generational family and social patterns, we have managed to cultivate, facilitate, and perpetuate ignorance to the level that we no longer know that we no longer know and believe that we do know what we truly and obviously do not know and maybe never did.

There is nothing we can do about the ignorant thoughts, feelings, speech, and behaviors of others. No matter where they got it, it is theirs now, and only they can solve it. Of course, the same goes for us, so we can only model that there are ways to overcome ignorance and that other possibilities are always available.

We can think of the first stage of skill (mental and physical) acquisition as unconscious incompetence or unconscious ignorance. We do not know that what we are thinking, feeling, or doing does not work. The second stage is conscious ignorance where we know what we think, feel, or do does not work. Finding that we do not know something is exciting. It is where our journey is now.

When I step on the mat and see something I can do, it is very gratifying and validating that I have not wasted all this time and energy, I actually have learned a few things. However, practicing what I already know does not improve my skill level. I love it when someone shows me something new, I get very confused, and realize; now I am ignorant, now I can learn. They say the usefulness of a cup is in its emptiness. Perhaps ignorance is where I am empty on the mat and need to fill. I just need to be mindful of what I fill the space with.

In life, it is no different. We initially spend hours talking with each other to get to know who we and the other person are. Most relationships (and affairs) start from simple conversations. We want to know who that other person is and what their story is. We want to know where we fit into their lives. We want to know what we are ignorant of because that is where we connect with each other, in our not knowing (and hopefully creating) together. I have also seen where people stay ignorant of each other and the dynamics of their relationship. These relationships, based on perpetual ignorance seldom go far or end well. Yet, if we stay, open that there is always something to learn about and from each other every day, we maybe can facilitate the newness of those first few words we shared.

intelligence: (1) the ability to learn or understand or deal with a new and trying situation (2) reason, (3) to apply knowledge, (4) to think abstractly, (5) mental acuteness: skillful, (6) comprehensions, (7) success in problem solving

After over thirty years of working with people, I believe that we seldom live our lives from our intelligence. We mostly live it from the emotions we create through old unconscious pain and fear from our childhood.

When I stayed in the bashing arts, I really did not have to think about what I was doing. Bashing matched my background. If I ever thought about what I was doing, I would hesitate and get hit (or worse). So I seldom thought about it. Which also meant I seldom learned anything new in the martial arts. I just kept perpetuating the same old practiced pattern. In that blaze was the bliss of ignorance, but no real intelligence. Just more garbage-in-garbage-out. You hit me and I hit you (harder).

Part of what drew me to Aikido was the fact that it appeared to be a very intelligent means to problem solving and resolving conflict. Like I said, to learn something new I had to be confused by this idea of not hitting back. In a martial sense, this is contradictory to the concept of force. Yet, my intelligence suggested that perhaps someone wanted to do me harm, I did not have to perpetuate and escalate the conflict (and damage) by hitting back. I have never been a nonviolent pacifist, so just taking it, turning the other cheek, or walking away, was beyond what was possible or desired. I wanted to walk into the conflict, face it down, and take control of it without adding to it. In chemistry, they call this a catalyst. If ignorance created the fight, perhaps intelligence was a way to resolve it (or at least a few of them).

As a couples and family therapist, I seldom believe it when people tell me they do not know what to do. Sometimes that confusion of ignorance only hides the contradiction between what they have always done and what they already know they need to do. Don’t we all already intelligently know we need to stop hurting each other and using intoxicants and start treating each other with empathy and compassion? Of course, we do. That is exactly what we would tell others to do in our situation.

Instead of garbage-in-garbage-out, perhaps we can try ignorance-in-intelligence-out, fear/pain-in-empathy/compassion-out. The transformative and generative process is the use of mindful intelligence in all we do.

integrity: (1) a firm adherence to a code: especially moral or artistic values, (2) an unimpaired condition: soundness, (3) undivided: complete, (4) honesty

So am I proposing that we all already have some innate intelligence that overcomes ignorance? In a way, I guess I am. The Buddhist believes that we are all already enlightened, we just forget.

Perhaps besides accepting our ignorance and our intelligence, we need to cultivate the courage to act on what we all already know.

On the mat, I often tell people that if someone chooses to be angry or fearful, to let it be the other person. If someone chooses to lose their balance, let that too be the other person. While connected and interacting with (not on or to) the other person, we must maintain our own structural alignments, our relaxation of body, our calmness of minds, and our clear intent to resolve the issue with the minimum amount of force and effort necessary.

Resilience in life is greatest when we believe we will get through the rough times together and that the rough times will make use stronger. Resilience is not a sometime perspective or skill. It is our everyday discipline.


Breathe in, ignorance
Breathe out, intelligence