I studied Karate for two years when I lived in the Bay Area. Everything about the experience was great, but my favorite part, and this might sound weird, was the bowing. I used to really feel a connection to the Dojo itself when I would come in, take off my shoes and then bow into the room. I felt, in that moment, that I had crossed over into a sacred practice space. A simple symbolic gesture, sure, but also a moment to be mindful of how important my practice was and to be thankful that I had a space to practice in.
The effect was equally meaningful when I would bow to another student or to my Sensei. There was a lot of understanding contained in that bow; assurance of safety, even within combat, respect for the other person's skills, respect for the time we were spending together, learning, and the promise that we would leave our "other" lives at the door and fully focus on the lesson at hand. It's a beautiful gesture, the bow.
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