Written by: Emily Blair, Director of Operations
Reflection. Such a tricky term for someone such as myself. When I think of reflection, I am consumed by perfectionistic thoughts, wondering how to reflect “correctly,” as if there is such a thing.
I know the truth is that there is no “right” way to look back on what was and look forward on what is to come. That’s a difficult concept for me to digest, which may sound silly to some. But maybe others can relate.
So when thinking about our intention for the month of December, reflection, I initially sat down to create a formula on how to engage in reflection. Thoughts such as reflecting has to be chronological, I must hit all of the major events, I should include both the good and the bad, ran through my head until soon it turned into I have to write down absolutely everything from 2017. Suddenly I was crafting a novel instead of engaging in a meditative reflection.
And so, as I’m writing this, I am choosing to leave behind everything that initially came to mind when considering how I could go about sharing my thoughts on reflection. Instead, I’ve decided to share an experience I had at my dojo (the place where I practice karate).
On Tuesday evening of this week, I went to a meditation class after attending a sparring and technique class. One of two women who run the dojo, Sei Shihan Nancy (her title, Sei Shihan, indicates that she is a 6th-degree black belt), leads the meditation each week, and after the meditation, she often shares some of her own personal thoughts on the practice.
This past Tuesday, I was feeling incredibly insecure. I was having a terrible body-image day and feeling defeated after one of the previous classes, sparring, which is still a very new and difficult class for me. I almost didn’t attend the meditation class because I was feeling disconnected, my mind racing with thoughts telling me I was inadequate. Some part of me decided to stay, though, sitting on the ground, deepening my breath, trying to quiet my thoughts.
It is not the meditation itself I want to speak about but rather what Sei Shihan Nancy shared afterward. Sei Shihan Nancy began to discuss the founding of Thousand Waves, which is the name of the dojo where I practice martial arts. I knew that the dojo had been founded by women, for women, as a space to empower each other, but on Tuesday, Sei Shihan Nancy went into more depth about the history, sharing a piece of the story that moved my heart. She shared how she began this mission largely because of the way women are at war with their bodies, and how we often don’t feel beautiful or strong enough, thanks to the way our society has crafted an entire industry to cultivate this thought pattern. She went on to tell a story of one woman who used to stand on the outskirts of the training floor (at a previous space they practiced at), watching others engage in karate but never feeling confident enough to do so herself. One day, a friend dragged her in, and she experienced the art for herself. She is now retiring at the end of the year after learning through the senior Shodan curriculum (Shodan is the rank name for a first-degree black belt) at the Seido school. Sei Shihan Nancy shared how it was moments like this, watching women discover the scope of their capabilities, that reminded her of why she did what she did.
After hearing Sei Shihan’s story, I began to reflect on why I started martial arts. I began because I desired to deepen my sense of self-worth, to begin to use my voice, to stand up for myself, to set boundaries, to understand that I am more than something to be looked at, to heal my relationship with exercise.
And I thought to myself: this is reflection. A quiet moment of genuine, non-formulated reflection.
I’m glad some part of myself urged me to stay for meditation class on Tuesday. I feel as if, in some way, Sei Shihan Nancy knew the words I needed to hear that night.