In “Miss Congeniality” Sandra Bullock plays detective Gracie Hart, who goes undercover as a beauty contestant in the fictional Miss United States Beauty Pageant. Gracie is more comfortable dispatching thugs with jujitsu holds rather than walking in stiletto heels. Michael Caine plays her coach, Victor Melling, who advises Gracie in her answers to Host Stan Fields contestant questions.
Stan, played by William Shatner, asks, “What’s the one thing our society needs most?”
Gracie replies, “That would be harsher punishment for parole violators, Stan… And world peace.”
Often World Peace can be reduced to the cultural punchline. We all want world peace, but merely wanting peace doesn’t make it so. War, suffering, and the debilitating sense of powerlessness seem to define our world. How do we discover peace? How do we create peace on earth and good will toward mankind?
Instead of looking from the bigger picture inward, perhaps look from inside out. Gandhi said, “Each one has to find his peace from within. And peace, to be real, must be unaffected by outside circumstances.”
In “The Art of Peace” Aikido Founder O-Sensei writes:
The Art of Peace begins with you. Work on yourself and your appointed task in the Art of Peace. Everyone has a spirit that can be refined, a body that can be trained in some manner, a suitable path to follow. You are here for no other purpose than to realize your inner divinity and manifest your inner enlightenment. Foster peace in your own life and then apply the Art to all that you encounter.
One does not need buildings, money, power, or status to practice the Art of Peace. Heaven is right where you are standing, and that is the place to train.
Perhaps peace sources from within us ‘standing in heaven,’ where we stand now. Peace lies in its paradox: To appreciate the consequences of peace, one must respect the consequences of violence. The Tao of Peace.
In O-Sensei’s Aikido there is no attack. Aikido only exists when one is attacked. In the Aikido philosophy, the attacker defeats himself in his own intentions. You blend in the moment of the attack. You lead the attack to its natural conclusion: The attacker is his own undoing. That is the practice of Aikido in the context of O-Sensei’s The Art of Peace.
The Art of Peace transcends the merely physical. Without the attack, there is no war. No reason to fight. Accepting the consequences of the attack, the best choice is not to fight at all. Peace reveals.
O-Sensei said, “True victory is victory over oneself.” The true distinction of peace is overcoming oneself. Overcoming oneself is the never-ending journey.
In Aikido practice, O-Sensei said it is never the intention to hurt anyone. Years ago Sensei Bobby told me that if I hurt someone or if I get hurt that’s on me. I’m responsible for my actions, for my consequences. Mindfulness of the consequences of my actions and who I’m being sources the peace within.
For almost 30 years, I’ve dedicated my life in training Aikido. Regardless of O-Sensei’s benevolent purpose, Aikido is still budo, literally the “Way of War”. Aikido is a martial art, after all.
I’ve trained tirelessly against all kinds of attacks from bigger and stronger opponents. The purpose is singular: Finish the attacker expediently. Sensei Dan instructed, “It’s one time. No sparring.” In one sense, ending the physical conflict quickly is merciful. Yet, in the grander scheme: No one attacks. Peace.
I’ve trained my mind, my body, and my spirit to give me a chance in the attack. I know enough to take out my opponent by either throwing him hard to the ground or shattering his joint. One time. I’m present to what I can and can’t do. I choose not to fight if at all possible. The purpose is to foster peace for all people. O-Sensei said
The Way of the Warrior is to give life to all things…
Indeed, the consequences of physical conflict can be harmful, even devastating. I could be harmed or worse. So might the attacker. Within the balance of lightness and darkness, I choose peace. Peace is the conscious choice that we must resolve within ourselves.
I have nothing to prove. Neither do the others around me. I’ve been trained by the best, Sensei Dan and Sensei Bobby. I accept the inherent lightness and darkness within all of us. Accepting that nature is the foundation of peace. At least I’ve come to believe.
What do you do when abusers and bullies mean you harm in anyway? I believe O-Sensei would say: Stand your ground. Be greater than you know yourself to be. Take a stand in the threat of violence or conflict. Be courageous. Have faith within yourself.
I get the consequences of my actions, and the consequences of the actions of others. Hopefully, those who mean to harm become aware of the same. I’m true to me. I do my best. I never know how this will end. Peace arises in resolving the consequences.
“True victory is victory over oneself.” I’m the greatest enemy I shall ever face. Like you, I reconcile the conflict within, especially when I’m afraid. I know in my heart what the right thing to do is. So do you. Be greater than you know yourself to be: win or lose. We must all practice our own Art of Peace.
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