Greetings Kuma Kai Community! From my heart to yours, I wish you a very Happy New Year! We as individuals and as a nation face great challenges as this year begins. The new year is a time when we can begin again anew and define and commit to that which matters to us. I believe we are at a time when greater involvement in creating the kind of world in which we want to live is more important than ever. We can make anything happen if enough of us align to and engage in practices and activities that support our desired outcomes. In the case of the Aikido community and O’Sensei’s vision for a peaceful world, it would seem that a very high priority for us is one of peace and interconnectedness. O’Sensei taught that “we must first eliminate the discord within ourselves and then bring ourselves into harmony with the Universe itself”. What does eliminating the discord within oneself mean to you? Being centered, present, in a state of befriending oneself and others and cultivating empathy all around are good beginnings. Breathing, pausing, settling down, listening deeply, moving from reaction to conscious action and taking time in Nature to connect with all the beauty, power and supportive qualities Nature has to offer, will all serve to keep us more present and relaxed. And hopefully more present in all our relations! Yesterday I was taking a walk in the fields behind my home in the rain. I mostly had my head down to keep the water off my face and an eye on the depth of the mud I was walking through when, knowing I was reaching firmer ground, looked up. When I looked up, I saw a double rainbow. It was stunning. I then ventured further and something way across the field caught my eye………it was a bald eagle sitting in a tree! Wow! I went from concerns about “mud” to having my breath taken away by the beauty and power of Nature. It taught me a big lesson. Always remember to look up once in a while!! Let’s work together! Let’s find ways this year to be more connected, not less. To have more dialogue and deeper understandings of the issues we face. Let’s practice Tenkan……the act of turning to see the perspective of the “other.” To know that when we are centered and present, we can afford to consider another perspective because we are confident that we can do so without losing what matters to us. It is about seeing the perspective of the other and then asking them to see yours as well and seeing if there can, in any way, be common ground. Having a regular practice is key to inner stability. Having the support of a community is key to inner stability. Connecting with truth-based teachings is key to inner stability. Opening our eyes, ears, hearts, mouths, minds and bodies to all this precious life has to offer is key to living fully. Let us Live Fully together in the coming year! May abundant blessings fill your hearts, your homes and your lives today and always! Warmest wishes, Denise Barry Sensei P.S. Adult students……Save the Date for our Annual Seminar with Mary Heiny Sensei! February 3-5.