This morning I had my monthly coffee with my friend George, who is 81 years old. He is alive, vibrant and curious. I treasure our time together. It is always rich, and I leave thinking new thoughts. Today I left with the idea for this post and a new sense of grace.
He took his pulse after sitting down, saying he was monitoring his COPD. “It occurred to me that my pulse is a direct consequence of my beating heart. One thing many of us on earth share is a beating heart. And when it stops, we stop.” Fair enough, I thought. Then he took it one step further.
“I am practicing greeting and connecting with everyone I meet from my beating heart. At my age, who knows how long mine will keep beating. I’m telling you, Merle, it has been amazing,” he said with the bright-eyed enthusiasm of a child.
We both practice Aikido. One of the principles of Aikido is connection. For many, Aikido is a place to practice principles such as connection, relaxation, presence, and awareness. These principles are practiced within a martial discipline. As our partner enters with an “attack,” my job is to receive the energy and person in a relaxed and present manner, blending with them to produce a peaceful, non-injurious result. My partner will take a roll, which completes the technique.
We are grateful for our training partners, as they give us the opportunity to practice something other than our initial impulse — fight or flight. These are hardwired responses we all have when we sense strong emotions such as anger. Depending on one’s history, sometimes even kindness can produce negative automatic responses. We are waiting for the other shoe to drop.
To explore this, we did a typical opening Aikido move. I grabbed his wrist. We both took in a breath, exhaled and relaxed — he into the sensation of being grabbed and relaxing into my hand. I imagined feeling through my palm his tissues, bones and beating heart.
We stayed like this for several long moments — attempting to feel each other’s beating heart through the connection of our hands and wrists. Another big exhale, each imagining we could feel into each other’s hearts. I noticed that I became present to my own body’s sensations. The surrounding noise of the coffee shop receded.
I felt a deep joy in the pleasure of greeting him with my heart. Gentle, precious, tender, for I was extending to touch another’s heart with mine. That very organ that gives us life and we hope with all we have, gives and receives love.
For me, this is connection — the baring of myself to be touched by another. For it is in the opening to receive that I find myself giving. I feel a sense of uncertainty. Will I receive back pain and disappointment?
When we have a strong sense of our self and our commitment to be and act in the world as we would like to be, we can weather the occasional disappointments. For the reward is greater peace and acknowledgement of what we all want deep inside — to love and be loved.
Imagine your heart inside your chest, the size of a fist, beating faithfully. Appreciate its fragility as well as its strength.
Greet your loved ones with this heart. Give yourself a moment or two to pause, imagining yourself connecting to their precious heart. Feel your feet on the ground. Take a deep breath. Then feel what is transpiring between the two of you.
From this place, have the conversation you were thinking to have or the one they wanted to have with you. Or have a different conversation, acknowledging the love and what two human beings can create from this space.