On Connection, pt. 2

(This post was written by a senior student at Vermont Aikido.)

I have been on the mat for sixteen years, and as I sit down to contemplate an aspect of the Art of Peace that I would like to share today, I contemplate what is it that I have learned over the years that has been most meaningful for my life.

I come back to one the thing: connection, and the healing power of connection. I come to understand that connection is a basic human need, and that all suffering is really the experience of disconnection. It may be a broken connection, it may be a failed connection, it may be a connection not yet made. When we break connection, we suffer. We may cause suffering, but to cause suffering is to suffer ourselves.

As a species, we yearn for connection, we seek it, and we hurt when it fails. This may not necessarily be a connection to another person, though I think that is paramount for most of us. For some, it may be a connection to the divine, found in oneself, in the stars, in the mountains. This person goes off into solitude, to commune. In Aikido, we learn that connection to the divine and connection to the other are one and the same; indeed, to connect to the divine, one must connect to the other and when one disconnects from the other, one also disconnects from the divine.

On the mat, a technique ensues because a confrontation has been created; we are attacked by someone whose suffering we cannot fathom. Only a suffering person would try to hurt another. In fact, their attack is an attempt to connect, an attempt to be healed, albeit in an unskilled way that is unlikely to achieve this worthy goal.

But rather than reject this unskilled attempt at connection, we choose compassion and love. We choose to accept this attempt, to embrace it, and show our partner that they can have the connection they seek without being destructive. Both physically and spiritually, to redirect and neutralize an attack one must accept it into oneself with love and compassion. It is in fact the offering of this compassion that neutralizes the attack.

What if we could do this every day in our daily lives? What if we could lovingly accept each person’s attempt to connect, however it is expressed, take it into ourselves, experience it as an opportunity to enrich our own lives, through the richness this wonderful person has to offer us? Do we not have so much to offer one another, and do we not deprive ourselves when we reject the attempt of another to connect? What if we could see in each interaction the reaching out of another, a call for love and compassion, and offer it up generously?
What kind of world we have then? And how rich would our lives be?

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