Aikido, meaning The Way of Harmony, is less a martial art, and more a way of life. Aikido has taught me that we are indeed all connected and is a unique expression of the Source of Power and Love. In Aikido, the attacker is called Uke, while the person being attacked is called Nage. Our aspiration is to connect with our training partner, to see in their profound and exquisite humanity our own reflection. To see in their suffering our own pain, for only a suffering person would put themselves in harm way through an unprovoked attack.

The job of Nage is not only to peacefully protect themselves from harm, but, through compassion, to protect their partner from isolation, desolation, and a sense of abandonment. Being human, we Aikidoka get confused. We forget our responsibilities. We get scared. We think neutralizing an attack is about protecting ourselves at any cost, and our training may become solely about breaking our connection through throwing our partner. And so we are admonished by Shihan Anno Sensei: “Eliminate the desire to throw and replace it with gratitude.” In Aikido, gratitude is the act of compassion that harmoniously resolves the conflict.

We do not need to be Aikido practitioners to apply this admonition to our lives. In the face of anger express gratitude. In the face of fear, express gratitude. In the face of grief express gratitude. In the face of a person whom you cannot abide, express gratitude. The conflict will resolve itself, we will provide the opportunity for harmony in a callous world, we will be there, loving and benevolent, for our greatest enemy. That person whose cruelty, greed, selfishness, hatefulness, commitment to separation and division, is everything we are not, and so reminds of everything that we aspire to be, everything we believe in, and most of all, of our ability to transform great evil through compassion. How could we not be grateful to such a person?

A single moment of sincere gratitude to another human being, a sincere expression of appreciation, reverberates throughout the universe, creates a shift in our collective consciousness and brings us one step closer to saving ourselves, and one another, and the planet we inhabit, from destruction. Such an act uplifts the receiver, increases happiness and raises morale, so that they are likely to see the good in the next person they meet.

Remember that gratitude does not mean acceptance. In aikido we do not accept bad behavior. We neutralize. We protect. Our compassion is revealed in our firm in resolve not to allow this person to destroy themselves through destroying us. That is our mission as we walk through life.

O’ Sensei tells us: Always try to be in communion with heaven and earth; then the world will appear in its true light. Self-conceit will vanish, and you can blend with any attack