Cultivating self-leadership

Silvia Austerlic
Posted February 16, 2016 from United States

I started training Aikido in 2004 inspired by the body-mind-spirit philosophy of Morihei Ueshiba Osensei. His words “You are here for no other purpose than to realize your inner divinity and manifest your inner enlightenment” spoke directly to my heart, about a yearning I’ve been following most of my life.

Since my teenage years I’ve been on an eclectic self-discovery, healing and spiritual journey, fuelled by the desire to claim my divine birth right and be who I really was. I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina to an immigrant Jewish family from Poland. I had depression since early childhood, feeling that my body was a place of suffering, and the world, hostile and unsafe. I grew up during the military dictatorship, feeling alone, not belonging, and with the despair of “not having a future.” I left my country at 32, with the dream of finding a community where I could share my gifts and talents.

In 1998 I came to the U.S.A., and here doors opened for me. Aikido became a filosofía de vida, a body-mind practice that brought a lot of learning, healing and transformation to my whole self. Its rigorous training challenged me physically and beyond, making me question a negative self-image I had carried most of my life; a false identity sustained by beliefs of disconnection, unworthiness and powerlessness. I needed to unlearn these psychosomatic patterns in order to step into the divine self that Osensei invites us to uncover and express on and off the mat.

Training for my black belt exam in 2012 (the week I turned 47) became a practice of not knowing, allowing myself to trust my own experience, my own body, letting go of who I thought I was, relaxing, self-correcting, harmonizing from within, and coming back to center—in the midst of chaos, intense challenging energy coming at me, and the unknown.

This training was also at the core of the end of life care work I did from 2005-2015 as a Latino community liaison providing grief support services and hospice liaison in Santa Cruz County, California. In 2014 I received a Community Hero Award for contributing to the goal of health care for all members of our community.

To me, this is what true leadership is about. It starts with self-leadership, daring to break free from self-limiting beliefs and internalized self-oppression, and allowing ourselves to become our true authentic self. Then, reaching out to others from that centered place, so they can take that step for themselves. Like Maya Angelou says, “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” From that place we connect with others, center-to-center. Then we begin to create critical mass, and 1 + 1 + 1 + ... become a field, a movement, a new world.

Transforming the World from the Inside Out

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Feb 16, 2016
Feb 16, 2016

Dear Designerly, Thank you for your journal. I was surprised that Aikido is related to training leadership.

Thank you.

Lisa Anderson
Feb 22, 2016
Feb 22, 2016

Dear Silvia,

What a beautiful post! It's powerful to hear the influence Aikido has had in your life, and to hear the journey that led you to this practice. I especially love your line, "It starts with self-leadership, daring to break free from self-limiting beliefs and internalized self-oppression, and allowing ourselves to become our true authentic self." Thank you for sharing!

Warm regards,