Carly’s attention deepens, distills and expands. She doesn’t miss a thing, not a sound or speck on the floor, the tone of my voice, tension in my body or the ever-changing emotional expressions we share. The play look has taken root. In a glance the chase is on, laughing and rolling together on the floor. The absorbent mind is what Maria Montessori called it, absorbent because it is not preoccupied. Her attention is like the wind touching, experiencing, indeed absorbing, creating new patterns of relationship with every leaf on every tree. The greatest challenge we face is steady attunement with this unfolding miracle. We are mentors and completely responsible, moment by moment, 24/7. That’s intense and it is a blast.
Innocence allows this absorbent attention to explore freely, without a center that fear creates, a phrase used by J. Krishnamurti to describe what he called a mind that is silent. Innocence means entering into this experience and the next without prejudgment, with what martial artists call ‘beginner’s mind.’ Carly Elizabeth is too young to be infected with a social-ego, an image of her-self based on judgment and comparison. That inner narrative will unfold with concrete language in less than a year. That is ‘the center’ that, once created by judgment, judges, anticipates, predicts and self-censors to win approval (pleasure) and avoid shame (pain). Carly Elizabeth is innocent and if my attunement is deep I too can slip into innocence with her. Can you remember what that means?
Is it possible to retain innocence and beginner’s mind as one grows into language and culture or is ‘the center’ a necessary defense, an essential copping strategy to navigate an increasingly narcissistic and self-centered world? Is it really a jungle out there, a dog eat dog, winner takes all world? How best do I prepare Carly Elizabeth to meet her future? What if narcissistic selfishness is an infectious pathology, a form of insanity? Is going even a little crazy an appropriate defense or does creating an effective self-defense compound the problem? I have actually wondered about these things for forty years.
Aikido is based on the insight that we are all brothers and sisters. As such, any act of violence is pathological, a form of mental illness. It is the compassionate responsibility of the Aikido Master to protect the crazy person from harming him or her, and of course anyone else including the Master until the insanity is replaced with a clear perception that harming another is actually harming one’s self. Explain that to the corporate-military-industrial-complex.
At the heart of Buddhist philosophy is the deep awareness that we don’t really understand what we actually are and how we are related to everything and because of this, our normal delusional state, we end up doing all sorts of crazy things that harm ourselves and others. Nearly all Buddhist practices are designed to dispel this delusion, the insanity that causes our violence. But is it possible or even desirable to remain innocent in a mad world? This is indeed an old question.
Innocence: from Latin innocentia; harmlessness, from innocēns doing no harm, blameless, simplicity; absence of guile or cunning; naiveté, free from moral wrong; without sin; pure: as innocent as a child, not involving evil intent or motive, not causing physical or moral injury; being harmless. Gee, I feel this way with Carly. Why not hold and expand this state to include others; Pixel the cat sleeping under my feet, friends, family, colleagues, the guy who almost ran me over texting while jogging? Being an Aikido Master implies an extremely well practiced state of innocence. It blossoms when the heart and mind are free, unafraid, quiet, sensitive, alert, attentive, full of energy, touching and being touched by this unique moment that will never be again. There is a feeling of care and kinship (with all things) when innocent.
Unconditional love and innocence are twins. But innocence does not exist in our comparison crazed, fearful, increasingly narcissistic, plugged in - tuned out world, and therefore unconditional love for most, most of the time is just a phrase. In the East there is a phrase called ‘a direct contact high.’ It means, being with another who is in the state of innocence resonates and we catch the joy and the bliss if we are not talking to ourselves. Being with Carly is like that when I shut up and just listen with all the senses. Krishnamurti described innocence in his Notebook:
Quietly, it came, so gently that one was not aware of it, so close to the earth, among the flowers. It was spreading, covering the earth and one was in it, not as an observer, but of it. There was no thought or feeling, the brain utterly quiet. Suddenly there was innocence so simple, so clear and delicate. It was a meadow of innocence past all pleasure and ache, beyond all torture of hope and despair. It was there and it made the mind, one's whole being innocent, one was of it, past measure, past word, the mind transparent and the brain young without time.
That’s good enough for me.