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April 01, 2015

Paying Attention and Listening

It was Sakura Season in Japan this past month. Just a few minute walk from the Tokyo HQ Office is a popular spot called “Chidorigafuchi” for viewing beautiful cherry blossoms in bloom. This year, I was able to take some time to enjoy a short walk along “Chidorigafuchi”.

When I happened to look down from the cherry blossoms and looked at the faces of people around, I found a variety of expressions on their faces.

During this time, there was a young couple who seemed to be having an argument. It seemed like they were quarreling because the young man showed up slightly late. The young lady seemed very upset and was persistently questioning the young guy over the reason for him being late. The young guy, seeing how upset the young lady looked, seemed unable to say anything.

The weather was warm and sunny but it seemed there was a cold and unusual atmosphere surrounding the couple having an argument.

Watching them brought back memories of me when I was much younger.

The basic element of communication is to understand the other person or partner. If we put ourselves and our needs first, trying to understand the other person will be almost impossible. Communication is particularly difficult if we have already formed our own opinions in our mind. Instead, we want to listen carefully and try to understand while waiting for the person we are communicating with to finish talking.

When I was much younger, I also made the same mistake of not listening countless of times, causing me to have conflicts with other people.

The same applies to practicing Aikido techniques with a partner.

If we make ourselves and trying to throw our partner the first priority, we will never be able to understand and lead our partner.

By already deciding in our mind the “correct way” of moving and doing an Aikido technique, we will not be able to feel, understand and lead, which in turn makes us “clash” with our partner instead.

When I was having conflicts while communicating with people, the same result happened with my Aikido training while practicing with my partners.

“In order to be able to really grasp and fully understand something, we must first put it into practice through our daily lives.” This was an advice that was always repeated by Soshu Koichi Tohei Sensei.

After having realized that I had this habit, I tried to correct it by not deciding beforehand and forming opinions each time I listened to someone speak, until this became a new habit. Of course, this was easier said than done. It takes consistently repeating and practicing daily to accomplish this. I was able to cultivate this new habit and sure enough, this helped change and correct the way I practiced Aikido techniques.

By being calm and keeping one point, Ki naturally flows between my partner and me, thus, making it possible for me to understand my partner. 

Let us go back to the young couple who were having an argument while viewing cherry blossoms.

The young lady who was very upset was finally able to calm down and realize that her partner was holding something in his hand. It turned out that he was late because he was buying a present for their anniversary.

“By listening attentively we are able to change our lives with just one story.”

I made my way back slowly enjoying the Cherry Blossoms.

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