I have just returned from a remarkable Aikido Retreat in Santa Cruz, CA. Aikido is a non violent martial art in which the founder, Morihei Ueshiba, asked us to train ceaselessly and in a joyful manner in order to polish our spirits for the sake of making a beautiful and peaceful world. Living in such a way, is easier said than done. In order to do our part to fulfill his vision, we gather together to practice Aikido on a regular basis. This annual retreat features several teachers each time. Each year we are honored to have two teachers who studied with the founder, O’Sensei. There are not many teachers left who knew O’Sensei. These two teachers are Motomichi Anno Sensei and Mary Heiny Sensei. When they teach, they demonstrate and instruct us to practice in a very open hearted way. They encourage us to examine our motivations and intentions in all of our interactions. Anno Sensei is 85 years old and has been traveling here from Japan annually since 1999. The retreat typically hosts 150-200 people. Anno Sensei brings each student a gift of his own caligraphy and has done so each year. This is an extraordinary effort on his part! Although we are training rigorously and throwing each other with lots of energy, the overall feeling of the training and the practitioners is one of Love. People came from 5 continents this year. Friendships were forged and deepened. Connections were made. Gratitude abounded as we all fully realized what an amazing gift we were being given and what an amazing responsibility we were undertaking to carry this message of Love, Peace, Gratitude and Service to the communities in which we live and to the world at large. I returned home more tired than I had been in a long time and yet the predominate feeling I had was joy. I felt as if my heart knew no bounds. I felt as though we all really can make a difference in this troubled world if our hearts and our intentions are in the right place. Aikido training and the embodiment of it’s principles of love and peace, truly is medicine for a distressed world. 200 people are now scattering about our planet with glowing hearts and strong spirits and a desire to make the world a better place. Can you feel it?