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Ueshiba Aikido e-Reflections
ISSN 1712-2341
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Aug 28, 2009

"Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent."

Eleanor Roosevelt

This is a famous quote, often used to remind us that we are responsible for ourselves and the life we choose to lead. A difficult perspective to understand and apply as we live within a community of varied opinions and realities, each affecting us and influencing our thoughts and decisions in ways that seem beyond our control.

It has been a most enriching trip back to Singapore. With my mother-in-law in the 4th stage of cancer, whenever we gather, we reminisce about her and how prominent she has been in our lives. She was a survivor of the 2nd world war, fending for herself in war-torn Singapore streets selling cakes and things at a very young age, and then having to bring up a large family through difficult times. Her will is steel, tough-as-nails, and selfless when helping the poor and the needy.

Her whole life was dedicated to service to the church with a never-say-die attitude. She is clearly a person who does not bother what people say about her. In fact, because of her attitude and approach to life, her cancer would have stayed undetected if it were not for a medical check up that she was made to take. At that point, the cancer was already at its 3rd stage; so you can imagine the discomfort she continued to go through quietly while still cooking for the poor every week (she's an excellent cook: we will definitely miss her very sumptuous and delicious Asian dishes), and visiting her children who are scattered around the globe, including us in Victoria, Canada. In fact, she has been visiting us every year, until she was unable to.

A member of the third order of the Franciscans and an active member of the St Vincent de Paul Society, she has surmounted the odds many times in her life to champion both her family and the poor. From an Aikido perspective, she has been able to live a most fruitful and fulfilling life, through some of the most challenging situations without complaint, seemingly blending effortlessly to turn difficult situations into positive ones. I am sure you know of someone similar in your family or in your circle of friends. This is a person you know you can depend on.

Her example is echoed in what has been shared weekly in Aikido classes, and with soldiers whom I was privileged to be involved with during this trip. In the army, where a myriad of close combat arts are taught, one must be strong in one's attitude and character and not waver no matter what one faces or what one hears. One must be quick to realise that it is not the art that you learn and practice; it is the person practicing the art. Tempering oneself is first and foremost.

As you reflect on our quote, ask yourself if you are affected by what people say or think about you all the time? Does the weather dictate your day? How committed are you to your word?

In the old days, Senseis or Sifus would deliberate make things tough and belittle their students just to test their mettle. Whoever stayed were worth teaching.

What sort of person are you?

Yes, it has been a most enriching and educational summer for us. Now, we look forward to returning to Victoria.

See you in the Dojo soon.

n peace and harmony,
Rafael Oei Sensei.
(© Copyright August 2009: Rafael Oei)

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