91. Memories, Sweet, Sweet Memories ......

93. Feeling Thin Today

My family has more than a little Irish blood mixed in with all the rest so anything Irish has always held interest (esp. green beer on St. Paddy's Day).  But with that said, no .... we don't paint ourselves blue or wear kilts but the rest of it, the Celtic part of it that's out there in the mix, remains.

Some of the most spiritual music I've ever heard anywhere is Celtic.  I consider it more spiritual than Buddhists beating their board and doing chants, or a vocal group at High Latin Mass, or even drunken Trappist Monks chanting in Latin.  None of it beats a Celtic woman singing like a siren drawing the ships in.  It just sounds ethereal like it would be the only music playing over the iPod earbuds stuck in Keanu Reeves ears when he steps out of the sphere in "The Day the Earth Stood Still" ....... that kind of ethereal.

The Celts speak of a concept that I've heard of in only one other place.  The concept is known to the Celts as "Thin Places.  The only other culture I've heard that in was in reference to Mexican Shamens and Curanderos that describes "Veiled or Thin Places"; so either Mexican Shamens are really Celts who took a wrong turn at Stonehenge on the way to the solstice or the concept has gotten around a bit in those cultures that are closer to true mysticism (and by true I mean true and not that watered down New Agey-ism Gaia tripe). 

A Thin Place is somewhere; a room, a building or cave, a structure (it can basically be just about anything/place) where the barrier (the veil) between the normal and the supranormal, the mundane and the magical is so thin that under the right set of circumstances the two "sides" of the barrier cross and the veil lifts and for a brief moment the mundane and the magical are one and the same giving you the viewer a glimpse of something beyond, something better, something more meaningful, a mystical moment as it were.

Metaphorically speaking, it could be considered a place where, by leaving our normal daily routines outside the threshold or door to the "Thin Place", our minds can relax enough for us to "hear" the voices inside, "feel" the emotions, "sense" the environment, and for that brief moment, transcend the normal 9 to 5/pay the bills/drive in traffic world and reach for somewhere higher .... a place that we normally cannot even see or imagine due to the clutter that we more normally carry with us and that burdens us and numbs our senses.  A place where Ueshiba described could be such a place or where the elves took Bilbo and Frodo after the ring sage ended ........... where do you want it to be? ....... and what description would you use?

The ability to reach for that place is what transforms us in the long term since once having had that glimmer of just where it is, we cannot drop the idea nor forget the moment and keep finding ways to go back again and again to the "Thin Place" in an effort to recreate the moment.  That effort at "recreation" is what, over time, transforms us and allows us to grow and stretch and become a Shamen or a Celtic singer in our own right.

Such is the dojo.  This is the reason that we leave our shoes in the rack and leave our ego in our shoes and bow to the Shinza as we enter. We want to make a distinct "break" with the outside so that we can begin that transition into the "Thin Place" and mazimize our chance at being able to cross over, even if only for a moment.

For me in the dojo, it's that place where every waza flows and my mind is so calm but alive and focused that it actually saddens me to have to put street clothes back on to make the drive home.  Sometimes I teach class and don't even know that I've been there (on the other side of the veil in the "Thin Place") until class is over and someone walks up to ask me how I levitated my uke during the lesson while not breaking the stream of verbal lessons, like I was one person with a fully bifurcated mind (two people in one body) with one focused only on talking and one only on throwing, and each of the two perfectly focused into the moment (of communication and of waza).

The dojo is a "Thin Place".  The next time you cross the threshold honor that; and if you get that glimmer, then come back and honor it again.

I think I'll have to refocus my drive this new year and spend some time on the other side.  Even tho' I'm Celt somewhere back there I'd never really thought of the dojo in this light.  I guess that this Christmas/New Year's season was better than I realized.  I guess I actually had the chance to truly relax and realize that "Thin Places" aren't just myth.

L.F. Wilkinson Sensei

Aikibudokan, Houston, TX

January 2011


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Sean Ingvard Ashby

Very nicely put. I can empathize. I've experienced (in small, limited ways) the sort of phenomenon you've described, of talking to the class while doing something else to uke without "thinking". Strange and wonderful.

Incidentally, in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ("Mormons" basically), the most sacred room in a temple, the Celestial Room, is often spoke of as a place where the "veil" between heaven and earth is "thin" and the connection with the divine is at it's closest.

Mindie Burgoyne

I love reading interpretations of thin places. Yours is an excellent one. My favorite quote in this post is, "The dojo is a "Thin Place". The next time you cross the threshold honor that; and if you get that glimmer, then come back and honor it again."

Very insightful. Thanks for that.

Mindie Burgoyne

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