You say “Christmas” and the mind goes to childhood. To your amazement in front of a crib. Gazing at the Christmas tree’s lights. To the warmth of a grandparent’s caress. To the joy of unwrapping a gift.
Serene sensations that warm the heart with that little tenderness that slowly rootrd in us.
You say “Christmas” and you see crazy cars in messy traffic jams. Vans that go at breakneck speed to deliver more and more boxes. People who say each other to get lost when queuing in shopping malls – those places that appear to serve to exorcise the specter of difficulties and uncertainties that are becoming less and less distant and more and more impactful for our lives.
You say “Christmas” and, in the face of the warmth it evokes in your memories, you perceive a cold emptiness. And Christmas risks becoming the grotesque mask of what it should be. An absence of hope dressed up for a party. A time to wish something good to people you actually ignore. An habit of buying and exchanging goods between people who don’t know what will happen tomorrow.
And this stimulates a kind of reflection. Yes, even the one from of an Aikido practitioner, who should know how to deal with “empty” and “full”.
We know -because even before Martial Arts, Nature teaches it- that every void left accessible is invariably filled. From keeping an open guard to staggering your point, it’s only a matter of time: the emptiness will be filled.
Well, Christmas is a good time to ask yourself a provocative question: while we go downtown like flocks to buy gifts, what about our center? Who lives there? Is it guarded or is it empty? And if it’s empty, who ends up occupying it?
Pushing the reflection a little further, those who practice a martial discipline know very well that it is the interaction between an “empty” and a “full” that dynamically generates the relationship on the tatami.
How to see this in the perspective of Christmas?
You say “Christmas” and you say Jesus. Baby. Poor. Marginalised. Christmas is Christmas because you remember this – and not the latest smartphone model.
So you think -whether you believe it or not- that Christmas is the story of the birth of a child in the midst of difficulties. But in those little more than three kilos of weakness there is the infinite strength of God.
A God who “empties” himself, who becomes small and who meets humanity in this smallness, becoming part of it. No more “above” or “elsewhere” but even “below”. Theologists label this with a greek word, kenosis (κένωσις).
You say “Christmas” and you talk about a God who comes towards you, with an uncertain step and crawling, holding his hands towards you, looking up at you, so that you teach him to walk -and in doing so you learn walking with God.
What our dual habits perceive in a martial practice flatter us, deceiving us, making us thinking that knowledge and technical expertise can give us back security and a certain measure of power thanks to ever more refined ways of using our “full”.
Christmas teaches us the opposite: that a “empty fullness” is infinitely more powerful, creative and bearer of beauty than a “full emptiness”. That there’s more value in that child than all the hurries you do to try to celebrate something or someone that isn’t him.
Morihei Ueshiba was certainly not a Christian and far from us the clumsy attempt to wash down anyone using quotations out of context. But let us ask ourselves: what was inside this sentence in “The Art of Peace”?
Cast off limiting thoughts and return to true emptiness. Stand in the midst of the great void. This is the secret of the Way of a Warrior
You say “Christmas” and you think that perhaps your Aikido practice needs to be reviewed and strengthened -at least in terms of perspective.
Who knows if this isn’t the best gift though? The famous “useful gift” that marked the end of our childhood and ushered us towards a series of Christmas of more or less questionable sweaters.
Best wishes to all to find in the emptiness of Christmas, that “emptiness full” that crawls towards all of us.
Andrea & Sara
Disclaimer: photo by Alex Andrews from Pexels