Be Here Now again.

Be here now. I never really thought about this until this morning. I just expected myself to do it. I was challenged today to ask myself: Where am I?” Here. Then, “What time is it?” Now. I saw this 3 word sentence in a new way.


I brought this questions to class. I asked Ron, Jocelyn and Anne where are you and what time is it? We focused on that for a moment then I asked them to let go of the story they brought to class about who they were, how they felt about themselves and this experience this morning.


Then I challenged my class to mirror their nage as uke and the same as nage. So if uke felt stiff to nage, nage was to respond in kind. If nage felt quick to uke …uke could become quick. We did this with any attack and the technique that rose up organically through the interaction.


The results were illuminating. Our habits got shook up because we interrupted what is normal for us.
Jocelyn had a startling break though with Ron as uke. She was so in tune with him he thought he was going to get to rest at usual place during the throw and just as he started to settle in she turned again and down he went in a smooth soft circle.


When I attacked Jocelyn she felt quick so I got quicker and it was such a revelation to change my routine of steady aggression. I continued to move quicker than what is normal for me. I used this interaction as a talking point to further illustrate what I meant to the class. Vague concepts can be hard to understand especially when well-loved habits are challenged.
I then invited nage or uke to ask questions or give feedback at any time after a series of throws.


Class was interesting and uncomfortable. I feel like I may have changed an idea that was so ingrained in me that I did not know it was there. I am still letting in come to surface.
Aikido training can be many things to many people. At Berkshire Hills Aikido I challenge long term students to examine the things that they can change, to notice how they feel and how the person feels to them and to watch their own thoughts.


It’s so easy to go sleep and to accept the mediocre from ourselves or to blame others for our choices. My life is enhanced when I feel what is here and now and make centered decisions that rise out of shared energy.

ikkyo and rowing — cousins?

Ikkyo exercise  and rowing exercise. I used to think they were cousins and tried to relate the movement of each to the other because they both involved hips and arms. I said, “Ron, how do they relate to each other?” and Ron said, “They don’t.”  That brought me up short.

And it set me free. Just because 2 things have similar qualities does not always make them the same.  

Ikkyo exercise is an extension of ki and then a dropping of heavy arms with a precise stop at the hips to end. The hips come out, then the hands. The hips come back and then the hands. Perfectly simple and often misunderstood.  Frequently people extend hips and hands together. It is a careful practice to do hips, hands, hands, hips. And it feels so very good: an accomplishment every time it is completed correctly. Very satisfying.  

Rowing exercise is lower and different than ikkyo. When rowing motion is done solo it can be very neat. Hips lead and arms follow at hip level, very relaxed with wrists slightly bent into open hands not clenched fists as they extend out.

Feet are in hamni for both and posture is chest open and shoulders back.

When ikkyo exercise is practiced with a partner nage does it in a relaxed and regular way not “more” because we are being tested. Uke extends their arm so nage has to lift through uke’s arm to accomplish the extension.  Nage’s challenge is be natural and do it just like they do when there is no resistance.  

For rowing exercise uke grabs nage’s wrists and pushes gently as nage extends out and pulls gently as nage rows in. Again the challenge is to move naturally and not get muscly just because there is resistance.

Sometimes I ask nage to stop working with uke and show me how they do it with no uke. Then I ask nage to resume working with uke with resistance in the manner they just demonstrated with no resistance. It is very challenging because we forget that we are looking for a dependable feeling in ourselves not an accomplishment of moving the arms of another.

Resistance ought to always be appropriate for the person doing the exercise. To be helpful uke should push or pull just a bit so nage has some energy to work with but not so much that they feel discouraged or develop a “pushing with muscle” feeling.

While they are not cousins Ikkyo and rowing are fundamental exercises in Aikido training that give us opportunities to develop strong extension of ki using our whole bodies with the emphasis of the hands arriving last.

Mindful again

Aikido helps with mindfulness because each nage must be in the now with each uke in each moment. We feel what happens as we move to reconciliation together. Uke offers their energy as a gift. Nage creates a framework and accepts the gift as it is offered and moves with uke in the trough of energy.  Energy is given by uke, nage and the blending of the two.  The sum of uke, nage and energy blending creates more than is given. It creates harmony and a beautiful feeling of peacefulness.

Aikido journeys.

Kokyu nage

In class last night Ron felt rough and abrupt, stopping me with his kokyu nage, his arm heavy and directive.

 When we worked on nikkyo together, his movements felt substantial and sudden on my cold tender wrists. No harm was done but the pain was sharp and I tapped out quickly. I noticed how vulnerable and sensitive I was.

Ron looked huge when he was nage for freestyle, like an elk, powerful, elegant and menacing. His strength seems to be expanding from the frame made by his shoulders and extended arms. The frame felt impenetrable and flexible like the cable used to hold up suspension bridges.

Ron feels to me, when I am uke for him, robust and healthyfor his 71 years or for that matter, a man of 40. He feels like a mountain andat the same time like an ocean wave; solid yet moving and looming. You getinvited in and then realize that you would rather be just about anywhere else.

You can’t think yourself into this bearing. You must be one with what is happening right now. You must take in all the sensations of the moment and process the situation.  Then you can move solidly to lead and follow into peaceful resolutions.

Aikido reshapes, redesigns and heals us on our journeys.

Pumpkin Pie-ish!!

Gluten free, sugar free,  almost free dairy Thanksgiving was delicious this year. We had turkey, stuffing, and sweet potato casserole, boiled onions and the best for last….Pumpkin pie-ish.

I made the crust from nuts, pecan crackers and 3 apple pie Lara bars. I ground them up separately in the food processor and patted the mixture into the pie pan. I baked the crust- like substance (winky face here) for 15 minutes at 350 and then added my Libby’s pumpkin from the can, mixed with 1/2 cup apple cider and 1 half cup ½ and ½, 4 eggs beaten and 24 Sweet and Low. I added some pumpkin pie spice and baked it for 1 hour, covering the edges with my long unused pie edge cover at 30 minutes in.

I always keep a sense of humor and lightness when I bake gluten and sugar free. Some of the results have been less than yummy. This pumpkin pie, however, is a keeper. I have not had pumpkin pie for 12 years since I stopped eating sugar.

Juli and the pie.

I served this pie with Sugar and Dairy Free Cool Whip and everyone liked it, even the sugar and gluten eaters in the group. One comment from a Facebook freind was that my pie was better than a regular pumpkin pie that she had later that day. That is a fine compliment. I can’t wait for Christmas so I can make it again.

Darkness descending

burn burning candle candlelight
Photo by Hakan Erenler on Pexels.com

This time of year I can feel the darkness in my soul. Ron lights candles for the front windows so I can see the flickering light when I drive up the road after work. This year we put up a holiday tree. It sparkles gaily in the last window. Just writing that makes me smile and shores up the hope in my heart.

When I look out the windows at work at 4: 15 PM the blackness is descending. The street lights get long in the snow flakes and tears form in my eyes. I walk back into the light of the office and finish up my day’s work reminding myself of the candles, the tree and Ron waiting at home for me.

advent blur branch bright
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Each day is a new day. I share this because I know I am not alone. The darkness feels lonely, isolating and heavy: all an illusion. I have tools to cope. The light always comes back. Long summer days will return and the warm sun will shine again.

Nothing tastes as good as healthy feels.  

Part of my aging process has been noticing how foods make me feel. I can’t eat sugar anymore because it causes me to gain weight, over eat other foods and have uneven emotions. By abstaining from sugar and now, gluten and potatoes I have leveled out emotionally. I have also cut way down on cheese and carbs.

It is starting to get colder now that we are in October and I get winter food cravings.

Last week I had a yen for pasta with ricotta. I followed a recipe for a broccoli puree with raw garlic and ricotta. I substituted gluten free penne for the suggested short pasta. It was an easy recipe that only took about 15 minutes to prepare. I settled in my comfy blue recliner, clicked on Netflix and took my first bite. It was delicious, as were the second, third and even fourth bites.  Then I was full. I didn’t want anymore. The dish was too garlicky and too rich for me. I put it down and noticed a blah feeling. I don’t know if it was from the food directly or just being disappointed that it did not satisfy like I thought it would.  I won’t be having that dish again.

The next night Ron and I made a beef pot pie with gluten free puff pastry crust that we got from the frozen food aisle. This recipe was a bit complicated and we worked on it together with Ron concentrating on the beef and me cutting up the sweet potatoes, leeks and carrots.  We had thawed the puff pastry all day knowing from past experience that it puffed better when thawed rather than being frozen at bake time. Ron put the big black cast iron pan in a 425 degree oven for the final bake as we waited hopefully for our flavorful delight.

It was wonderful.  The gravy was just thick enough. The vegetables tender but not squishy and the thyme made it savory. We each had a serving and then another half serving which we usually don’t do. We complimented each other on how yummy it tasted. The crust was crunchy, golden brown and flaky. Ooh. Just lovely.  Then, the next morning I awoke feeling lousy. I felt nauseous and had a pounding headache.  I hadn’t had a food hangover for a long time because I haven’t been eating any flour- like products, even gluten free. So, another tasty recipe goes down the drain.

Last night we had a chicken breast, broccoli and cherry tomato saute over penne.  I sprinkled on a little lemon juice and added Parmesan cheese just before serving and it was scrumptious. I woke up this morning feeling fit as a fiddle.

I need to eat some carbs so I will keep paying attention to how I feel after I eat and keep readjusting. Because nothing tastes as good as healthy feels.