Lisa Leitl, Contributing Writer
Remember to enjoy the journey!
I am fortunate to be able to spend a lot of my day creating music, new business ideas and ways to help others. I also belong to a number of groups online that have similar interests to my own which I thoroughly enjoy participating in.
One thing I have noticed which permeates the groups is this frantic energy that revolves around social media and business strategy. Everyone is so preoccupied with Twitter followers and Linkedin members, YouTube videos and a seemingly endless list of others. It feels many individuals have forgotten, or maybe it just doesn’t come up in those online groups often enough, the primary drive for participating in social media. Why are you doing this to begin with? What is the driving force? Is it to gain more followers? Is it to have more likes? There seems to be a lot of frustration and anxiety mixed in with some deep disappointment.
I want to create an opening and a conversation that is all about that “little kid”. The one that first sang in the choir, picked up a guitar or played the drums. You know that little version of you that got lost for hours in playing your instrument and singing along with the radio.
I believe that if we go to that place everyday we will rediscover our true heart and soul. We might just realize that chasing an end goal isn’t what is most important. The process is what really keeps us truly engaged. It is the daily challenge of getting up and practicing, improving and moving forward with our art. It’s the sitting and staring at a blank sheet of paper before we commit to writing down the first word of a new song that motivates us. This is at the heart of who we are as artists.
So, lets take a moment everyday just to remind ourselves of this incredible journey we are living. For that is the fuel necessary to keep the plan moving forward.
What are your thoughts? I would love to hear from you!
by: Lisa Leitl
Everyday, I look into my room – the one where I have my guitars, amplifiers, and my songwriting notebook serving as furniture.
Here is where it all begins . . . the writing, the practice, the playing and of course, Resistance. I can come up with a million reasons why I shouldn’t step in there right now and begin.
This is the moment of truth. How badly do I want to improve? Can I face another day in front of a blank sheet of paper? I have no idea what I’m doing and or if I can even get one word out and through my pen. This isn’t just once in a while, it is a daily war. It’s the fight against the two parts of me. There is one who is wanting to put off practice and writing for another hour or maybe even another day. Then there is the other side of me, the one that knows the true battle is in the starting. Just a simple act of getting in the room and sitting in the chair. That’s the hard part. That is the difference maker between the Lisa who will be average and the Lisa who will excel.
I wish that I could tell you that I jump up out of bed ready and raring to hit the music! I would love to proclaim that I am excited about what will come out today or how well my practice will go. These, however, are the rare moments. For me most of the time it is a tug of war between Avoidance and Getting Started.
Here’s the great part of all of this. There is something that keeps me coming back day after day.
It is the knowing.
Yes, it’s the knowing I have overcome this before. I have experience on my side. Through constant repetition and ritual, I know that if I just sit and pick up my guitar, things will start to flow. Before I know it, the all-too-familiar feelings of an aching wrist and sore back are my cues that I am putting in my work. I have no idea how much time has gone by or if what I wrote today will turn into a song or stay in the “idea” file. It matters not. I do know however that I did the work. I worked on my craft for another day. I can walk out of the room knowing that I overcame, at least for today, the resistance battle.
I won’t think about the future. I am fully present, guitar in hand. Tomorrow will come soon enough.
by: Lisa Leitl
The Kyudo Climb
The day was almost here. Excitement was in the air as I thought about the details – what would the trip be like, where would I stay, what would the training consist of. I had decided to turn my trip into a “Kyu-cation,” that is, relaxation before and after, and a lot of hard training in the middle.
I was fully prepared, or so I thought. My ride was mapped and my hotel was reserved. Only 48 hours stood in between me and my martial arts adventure.
Departure day had finally come and I was scheduled to be on the road at 10:00am. Somewhere between packing my bow and picking up the rental car, my excitement started wearing the face of anxiety.
Nonetheless, I packed the car, said my goodbyes and started on the road to South Carolina. I was only an hour or 2 into the drive when it started. The bubbling of anxiety turned into a full boil and the tears began to flow. I was on the road and I was lonely. Everywhere I looked, couples and families appeared to be having fun together, having a much better experience than I was.
Memories can be a double edged sword. During my rest stops, elderly couples became painful reminders of my father’s early, unexpected passing. Thoughts of my mom being alone, spending her golden years without her traveling partner flashed across my inner theater screen.
This was not the trip I planned. This was not the trip I wanted. I was alone, on a unfamiliar highway,
traveling to a kyudo dojo. Me, the singer, ice skater, guitarist. . . . now budding kyudoka. Alone with
my fears on a long lonely road to a place I have never been. What was I thinking?
I had the foresight to break up the 8 plus hour trip into a pair of 4 hour doable distances. What seemed
like a good idea was turning into another opportunity to worry, think and shed tears of anxiety.
Finally, I arrived Friday afternoon and I hoped my emotions would soar as much as the arrows I would
be shooting. An initial warm reception helped, albeit in a short lived way. But we did not come
together to talk. We came together to train, so it was off to the shajo.
Following Aaron Blackwell Sensei’s lead, we stepped up the wooden stairs into the shajo. It looked like
the training halls I had seen in so many videos, but never before in person. It was at this time, I was
aware of feeling incredibly out of place and unsure of myself. Tension was the name of the book, and I,
My empty stomach and vibrating body were the only things I was aware of. It reminded me of the
unease an agoraphobic would feel in the middle of a huge crowd. I wanted to be safe. I wanted to be
sure. At that moment, I wanted to be anywhere else, even back in my car.
Aaron Blackwell Sensei began the lesson with the teaching of taihai. It was very detailed and my mind
was still foggy from the hours on the road. Anxiety was replaced by weariness and fatigue.
Soon other kyudoka began to arrive and the brief moments of clarity became a full blown blur. I was
trying to stay present and somehow maintain mental notes to be transcribed into my “kyudo journal”
for review later. At that point, I was not even sure where my kyudo journal was. Or if I even had one.
It was a long afternoon of heat, intense instruction and physical work, capped off by cleaning the shajo.
I struggled staying present while cleaning and trying to keep my emotions at bay.
Once completed, we went inside to share a meal together and begin what would become a family
bonding. I found myself in the all too familiar spot of fighting back tears as we ate our delicious meal.
The long day was now over and I headed back to the hotel, filled with fresh vegetables and chicken,
information and a heavy heart. Time to relax, refresh and have a good melt down. I called my husband
David, hoping to hear words of encouragement. I never gave him the chance, as it was a steady steam
of tears and fears after the “Hello.” He listened patiently while the weakest version of me presented a
After the wave of sadness finally settled, we actually talked. David reminded me of that which I
already knew but needed to hear. Kyudo was a volunteer art. There was no obligation to participate or
even stay, even though we both knew I would.
I don’t know if it was his words or the simple fact that I could finally and safely emote. I did not feel
much better, but at least the trend toward worse had ceased.
The next day, I drove to the shajo and stepped up equipment in hand. Then I noticed “me” the real me.
The Lisa that I knew and loved. The Lisa that has a burning passion for Kyudo and is a sponge, craving
to learn as much as possible. The one that plans on training in the art until the day I cross over the
River. Possibly afterward as well……she had finally arrived.
I do not know who that “other person” was that drove up here, or experienced training yesterday but I
was elated that she was gone. Now, my “kyu-cation” adventure began!
I eased into the morning as more and more people came to train and celebrate being alive and having
this unique opportunity to study. I was once again, entranced by the beauty of kyudo and the
experience of attempting to move in harmony as a group. I was training. I was part of the group, part of
the whole. I was home. ME, the singer, ice skater, guitarist and yes. . . kyudoka.
Time flew by, as all great adventures seem to do. The day was marked by details, adjustments, training,
more adjustments, more training and some wonderful moments of insight from Aaron Blackwell
Sensei. He spoke of being courteous to others, from arrow retrieving to cleaning the shajo. With rag in
hand, I realize how much every activity adds to the group cohesiveness. Lessons within lessons.
We once again gathered as a group for evening meal. For me, at this moment especially, I felt I
belonged. Yes, a beginner but nonetheless, I was a part of something special.
By the time I made it back to the hotel that evening the real me had emerged. Three seconds into the
conversation with David, he knew I was back, joking how the “medication finally kicked in.” It was a
much different conversation this time. Extreme fatigue was the only thing preventing a 2 hour
marathon session about my incredible experiences. Yes, I would now lie down head on pillow and
finally be at peace.
Sunday, the final day of the seminar came too quickly. Time to dress for practice in gi and hakama. Of
all the articles of clothing I have worn in my life, this was the least expected. . . and perhaps the most
appreciated. Learning to dress accordingly was a mini adventure in itself.
I walked on the shajo floor, hakama and all. Yes, I had a family waiting for me in Ocoee, FL. Now
looking around the shajo, at my teachers and fellow students, dressed in traditional Japanese garb,
ready to begin the day, I realized I had a family here as well. Time may be fleeting but this moment will
always remain with me.
We bowed and were ready to go. Today marked many firsts for me… my first time practicing in hakama
and gi and initial experience practicing tai hai with 2 arrows. Despite my pounding heart and sweating
palms, I did my best to stay present, focus on others and apply what I had learned. Much to my surprise
and delight, I managed to survive, at least enough to tell about it.
The day passed quickly and after sharing our last lunch together, we were all parting ways, starting our
journeys back home. I had many hours on the road and looked forward to collecting my thoughts
about my experience.
I have since come to this conclusion. I don’t know how or if I could continue to progress in my kyudo
studies if not for the Kyudo Alliance organizing such seminars. For those of us who live in areas where
there are no instructors, progressing in kyudo becomes an enormous challenge, bordering on the
This weekends experience has been invaluable. As Sensei said “Always be moving forward.” As
such, I graciously take the next step forward on my kyudo journey but not without taking a moment to
thank all of you. For your commitment to kyudo has made it possible for me to move one more step
down my own kyudo path. I am forever grateful.
by: Lisa Leitl