From my home, I drove to my favorite park in Torrance for an early evening walk. A cute Japanese girl, about 4 years old, rode her bike in the parking lot with her mom. Strapped into her protective helmet, she stood next to her bicycle in training wheels.
Driving out the gate, the little girl smiled brightly and waved her “goodbye”. So genuinely sweet.
I smiled, too, and waved back. That landed for me.
As I walked in the park I thought about that little girl with her bike.
In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic quarantine, she was so very happy. She was nice, just because. Hopefully, years from now, she’ll live in her greater normal, perhaps, raising her own daughter. In the years ahead, she’ll endure her own trials and tribulations, as I have up until now, albeit differently by definition.
Buddhism defines the Four Noble Truths. The First Noble Truth is that suffering and misery exist in life. The Fourth Noble Truth is the path to overcome suffering and misery. Through my own trials, tribulations, and training with Mizukami Sensei, I get that there’s perhaps another Noble Truth: Be of service to others.
That little girl shall find her own path, hopefully, different from my own less traveled one. Perhaps, what I do, what I say avails possibilities that might lessen life’s inherent suffering. That’s my sincere and profound wish for her and her generation.
In Variety’s Actors on Actors, two of my favorite actors, Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson, discussed the meaningfulness of their craft. Chris played the iconic role of Steve Rogers, Captain America, in Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War, and Endgame. Chris’s Captain America is the Hero, who stands for the just cause, regardless of circumstance or personal sacrifice. Chris is an amazing actor, a good man, and a devout Buddhist.
Of acting, Chris said, “The audience doesn’t come to see you. They come to see themselves. And at the end of the day, you have to let them in.” We risk our authentic selves and humanity to make a difference for others. That’s what we do.
In Aikido training with Mizukami Sensei, he taught me: “Just train.” From working with my Therapist Lance to heal my childhood trauma and depression sourced from my angry Dad, I learned to love myself for who I am, and forgive myself for who I’m not. My journey perhaps unconcealed yet another Noble Truth: The world is not all about me. When I heal myself, I can make a difference for others. Just saying.
In his heart, Mizukami Sensei believed that if everyone trained in Aikido the world would be a greater place. With all due mad respect for Sensei, that was not going to happen. Not everyone wants to, much less would commit to Aikido training. Yet, being part of his legacy, I do my best to leave the world a little greater than when I came into it, passing on all that I got from Sensei.
To that cute little girl wearing her bike helmet, although you might not learn this in school: Be kind to others and most of all be kind to yourself. Love and forgive thine own self. You are greater than you know yourself to be.
Yeah, the world can be unkind at times, so will some of the people on it.
When you can love and forgive yourself, whatever unkindness comes your way doesn’t really matter. Aikido Founder O-Sensei said, “True victory is victory over oneself.” Overcome yourself, get out your own way, be humble, and be grateful. I’m just saying. Not telling.
There’s power in accepting what you have, be it your parents or whatever. You can always expand your infinity, what you can become from wherever you start, from your Zero. Find others who will contribute in inventing the greater version of yourself. For me that was Mom, that was Sensei and others.
Life isn’t about being the GOAT (Greatest of All-Time). Life is about What’s Next: Become your greater-than version. In the Japanese aesthetic wabi-sabi: There is beauty in our imperfection. My dear friend Cheryl said, “Life is imperfectly perfect.” Amen.
Inevitably, life is acceptance: Being okay with who you are and who you’re not. We all must find our own measure of peace. In the bigger picture, that’s victory over oneself. Just saying.
That being said, remember: Have as much fun as you can for as long as you can. Like when you rode your favorite bicycle in the parking lot and waved to that ‘older’ man in the car. You gave life. You reminded him that life is a privilege and a gift. For that, I’m forever grateful. Nothing, but mad love and respect to you.
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