This difficult time; while we wish it was not going on, is an opportunity to deepen our practice by appreciating what is really important to us and what we can let go of-Kendo Culture of the Sword Alexander Bennett (pgs. xxxii and xxxiii).
We worked in our last class with a focus on experiencing levels of consciousness in the hidden realm using the zengo undo exercise.
Today we will continue this emphasis on states of consciousness working with the divine realm-using another exercise kokyuho undo which is a solo practice of tai no henko.
Before we go on to the divine dimension let’s review the manifest and hidden dimensions we worked with in our two previous classes.
O Sensei spoke of three basic dimensions of consciousness: manifest; hidden and divine- The Secret Teachings of Aikido (pg. 22); The Heart of Aikido (pg. 136) and The Art of Peace (pg. 87).
One of O Sensei’s greatest insights is that these basic structures of consciousness are of equal value. This is a distinction from many traditions which regard especially the manifest dimension as a place defined by suffering and difficulty that we want to get out of. O Sensei saw each of these states as part of a whole that was seamless and necessary for an experience of our own wholeness.
Everyone experiences these three states on a daily basis. The manifest is the physical dimension experienced during our waking state as we go through our daily activities. The hidden dimension is the realm of subtle energies which are familiar to Aikido students as ki. Everyone experiences the hidden dimension in the dream state. The dream state is not the hidden dimension but it is one way we commonly experience it.
The divine dimension is more difficult to describe but is a place of pure emptiness in which creation is present in its potential form. Everyone experiences this when in a state of deep dreamless sleep. But it can be experienced consciously, with practice, which is our focus in today’s class.
This “map” of consciousness is not unique to O Sensei or Japan. It goes back at least as far as India-Shankara’s Crest-Jewel of Discrimination (pgs. 45-49). We also find it in similar forms in Tibet-The Three Levels of Spiritual Perception by Deshung Rinpoche (pg. 9) and China-Cheng Tzu’s Thirteen Treatises on T’ai Chi Ch’uan (pgs. 75-81) and many other traditions East and West.
Ken Wilbur in his book, Integral Spirituality, also describes in a very clear manner this structure (pgs. 16-17 and 74). There is also a helpful diagram in his book Integral Meditation (pg.90).
The Aikido of Petaluma website has more information on this in recent blog posts and some videos.
Before we begin to work with the divine dimension and the divine body, let’s bow in and start with a little bit of stretching and then misogi breathing.
Let’s begin with a round of kokyuho undo six times on each side. As we do it try and remember your experience so we can refer back to it as our practice progresses.
Our focus on this exercise is in two distinct areas. First, the focus is on the turning of the body. Second, is the focus on the unmoving point at the hand and wrist. When doing tai no henko with a partner that is holding firmly, the body is turning around a point of the hand and wrist that doesn’t move. If we try to move the hand/wrist we encounter resistance from our partner. This still point is our doorway to the divine dimension.
The divine dimension is the realm of formless potentiality, which may at first appear empty in the sense of being devoid of content and in which we don’t appear to have a body.
Now we will go through a progressively more inclusive focus on the divine dimension and the divine body as a way of experiencing fuller levels of the divine dimension by using our divine body and our experience of kokyuho undo, especially the still point, as a reference.
At each point there is a sense in which you become a different person, there is a shift in identity as we quoted Nadeau Sensei in the previous classes.
It is essential that you experience a strong center in the divine dimension because it appears to be a place that is formless. This results in there being no fixed reference points. This makes our internal experience of a strong center of great value as it becomes our primary reference point. The lack of a reference point will cause us to start looking for one, not to be found outside of ourselves in the divine dimension and this looking will push us out of the divine dimension entirely.
- Bring the feet together with the heels touching so they form a “v” and the hands are relaxed at the sides. This is a form of the wu-ji posture from T’ai-chi in which the experience is that the body is still in a state of elemental wholeness, not yet subdivided into arms/legs and torso. In effect it represents a pre-body or divine body, like the outline of a Let’s take a moment to focus on our own center.
- Repeat kokyuho undo, emphasizing the still point and get feedback-how did this focus change your experience?
- Next go back to the wu-ji posture and feel how spacious the body really is. We learned in high school biology that while the body has a feeling of being solid, it is also at the level of atoms and molecules very spacious. This is the experience we are trying to cultivate. Remembering to focus on our own centers as our reference point.
- Repeat kokyuho undo and spaciousness of the still point and get feedback-how did the spacious divine body focus change your experience?
- Now expanding our awareness let’s do our circle/center practice. Open the hands and arms and make a circle around the body. Since every circle has a center, next move the hands up and down in front of the spine as if you were holding a jo. Feel the interaction between the circle and center creating the experience of an alive space. Now we have the divine body standing in the divine space. Finishing with a focus on your center.
- Repeat kokyuho undo in the alive space, with the still point and get feedback-how did the alive space focus change your experience?
- Next, stand in the alive space and let your system experience great quiet. You are now experiencing in a fuller way the divine body in the divine dimension. In the great quiet you can hear the music-the koto dama-of the divine dimension. Always finishing with your center. What is your experience?
- Repeat kokyuho undo and get feedback-how did the focus on the great quiet in the divine space change your experience?
By using a process of including more and more of the divine body in the divine world we have gone through more inclusive layers of a functional experience of the divine dimension.