jfs: (boy with cat)
[personal profile] jfs
When I started teaching Aikido, many many years ago, our dojo was in a tennis club - a step up from the previous place which was a chapel. The chapel was lovely, and the owners great, but we had to lug the heavy tatami mats down a narrow staircase, and the women got changed in the kitchen, and the men in the dojo space itself.

The tennis club was much bigger, and had better facilities. There was a cupboard by the practice space so the mats were easy to pack and unpack, and it had proper changing rooms, and it had showers.

So it very quickly became my ritual, especially the nights I was teaching, to take a shower. Not after the session (well, I did, but that's not the point of this story) but before.

Because taking a shower before meant certain things. It meant getting there early, to make sure I had time. It meant having a clean gi to practice in, because who wants to shower and then get into dirty clothes? It meant spending time in the changing room thinking about getting ready, about being in the right frame of mind to step onto the mat and to teach. That shower - with echoes of the ritual cleansing that many religions have before prayer - that shower was my transition ritual. Here, I stop being part of the world outside. I wash it's dirt from my skin. I prepare myself for what is to come.

And cleansed and refreshed, I would step onto the mat and bow.

So it's not really surprising that when I started training people in classrooms, I developed my own transition rituals. Mostly it was about laying out the space; putting learning materials by each computer (and to do that, you have to be there a little early ...), but the physical ritual for myself was emptying my pockets. Keys, coins, wallet. They all went into my bag, or the box that I'd just emptied my learning materials out of. Again, the practical part was to not have anything in my pockets to distract me, but the ... spiritual ... for want of a better word ... the spiritual part was to say 'here is the world, that you are putting away. Here, now, in this room; this is where your focus should be."

Why the memory?

The Church (both Catholic and CofE) recognise transitions; times when your life is literally changed from one moment to the next. There's a ritual for each.

The Catholic Church recognises seven sacraments - seven rituals that mark significant changes. I've been through four - Baptism, Holy Communion, Confession and Confirmation. I'm unlikely ever to go through Holy Orders. At some point, unless my agnosticism sticks, I may have the Sacrament of the Sick.

But tomorrow - some twelve hours from now, I get married. The church I'm getting married in has its own rituals - a familiar structure of prayers, promises, vows and hymns that have hooks deep inside me.

But I have my own rituals too. A dram of Irish whiskey - a present from @westernind and @forbinproject for being their best man 12 years ago. An ironed shirt. A dry-cleaned suit. Polished shoes.

And words to remember this moment by.

Catch you on the flip side.
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