Experiencing the Void in Functional Way

Experiencing the Void in Functional Way


We worked in our last class on experiencing the emanation from the divine realm through to the hidden and manifest dimensions using the fune-kogi undo, rowing exercise.

Today we will complete this series of classes on states of consciousness working with the void which connects, unifies and feeds all other aspects of consciousness-using the sayu undo or side to side exercise as our reference.  We will use the sayu undo exercise as our focus to first review the experience of the manifest, hidden and divine realms.  Then we will move on to the experience of the void as the underlying and unifying consciousness on which all the others are based.


Before we go on, let’s review the manifest, hidden and divine dimensions we worked with in our three 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). 

As we discussed previously, 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 unity that was seamless and necessary for an experience of our own wholeness The Heart of Aikido (pgs. 78-79).  

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 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. 

This seamless aspect that O Sensei emphasized can be directly experienced when we feel the mutual benefit and support that each of the dimensions provide to the other as part of the whole-The Heart of Aikido (pgs. 101-102).

In a very advanced state all three can be directly experienced as a whole-Integral Spirituality Ken Wilbur (pg. 74). 

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.

Training With the Void

Let’s begin with two rounds of sayu undo.  As we do it try and remember your experience so we can refer back to it as our practice progresses. 

Now we will go through a process of experiencing first the manifest, then the hidden and divine dimensions going back each time to sayu undo and see how each of these dimensions are expressed in the sayu undo practice.

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.

  1. Stand in the manifest space in which you are right now. Notice what in the space attracts your attention, using the circle/center practice.  This is one way of connecting to the manifest.  Then, starting with hands/arms and feet/legs move to your spine and head.  This is your experience of the manifest body in a manifest world.  Always finishing with your center.  What is your experience?
    • Repeat sayu undo and get feedback-how did the focus on the manifest body in the manifest world change your experience?
  1. Next open the hands and arms to work with the circle center practice to experience an energetically full space.  Then shift to the Universal Post exercise to experience your energy body.  This is your experience of you as an energy body in an energy world.
    • Repeat sayu undo and get feedback-how did the whole body energy focus change your experience?
  1. Now, expanding our awareness going back to 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.  Next focus on the great quiet in the alive space that can help us to more fully experience the divine world.   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 finish with a moment to focus on our own center. 
    • Repeat sayu undo and get feedback-how did the shift to the divine change your experience?

Now that we have reviewed these three basic dimensions of consciousness, let’s turn our focus to the void.  O Sensei talked about the void as an essential element both of our sense of identity and our ability to improve our functionality-The Secret Teachings of Aikido (pg. 53).  Here is an example from the tradition of Jewish mysticism, the Kabbalah-On The Mystical Shape of the Godhead Gershom Scholem (pgs. 39-40).  Ken Wilbur provides a modern example of the non-dual nature of the void-Integral Spirituality (pg.17 and pg. 93).

Let’s now do a practice to directly experience the non-dual nature of the void.


  1. Going back to the circle center practice this time with an emphasis on the great quiet as a doorway to the void experience. This practice creates a shape of the great quiet space which we then feel the void filling.  This shape can encompass the manifest, hidden and divine realms all at once.  Of course, the void doesn’t actuality fill the space because it is already and always present.  Repeat the practice as needed.
  • Repeat sayu undo and get feedback-how did the shift to the void change your experience?


The importance of center is even greater in the void, due to its seeming infinite emptiness than in the previous states.  Next is a practice of center in the void using mirroring.


  1. First, go back to the great quiet of the circle center practice to the void. Next feel that all parts of the void are mirroring each other.  In this way there is a unified experience in a place where only infinite formlessness seems to exist.  The mirroring experience is one way to be centered in the void in both an emotionally stable and a functional way.
  • Repeat sayu undo and get feedback-how did the shift to the centered void change your experience?



In this series of classes we have journeyed through the basic states of consciousness as explained by O Sensei and many other spiritual traditions.  The practical benefit this kind of practice provides, is that we experience a much broader and more complete picture of who we are. This can lead to a fuller level of inner satisfaction and a greatly improved functionality.