Integrating the I

Integrating the I


We practiced in the first on-line class in this series Working With the I.  The I is the center of our experience of personal identity.  We used the basic Aikido exercise ushiro-tori undo.

Today, we will continue working with the I to deepen our dialog and integration of the two parts of the I. Our goal is to move toward an experience of greater wholeness and reducing the potential for entanglement.  In today’s class we will return to the exercise zengo undo or two direction ikkyo undo, we used previously, as our physical reference. 


The I is the part of us that is the center of personal identity.  The experience of I is always present regardless of which persona or unit we are currently adopting.  When we are weeding the backyard there is I.  If we go to a state dinner at the White House there is I.  The unit is the clothing we wear to accomplish particular tasks or assume particular roles.  O Sensei called them kon (I) and haku (unit)-Essence of Aikido (pg.27).  One term he used to refer to the I as a whole is nen-The Secret Teachings of Aikido (pgs. 80-81).

This process as I of “inhabiting” particular units is often unconscious.  When we walk to our car to drive home, that is a unit.  Some basic units are much more a part of our identity than others.  Your choice of work; your place in a family or other important social groups are examples. 

The unit is the part of our selves that contains the skills and abilities necessary to accomplish the tasks for which that unit is created.  The energetic content of the unit is decided by the skills necessary to perform that particular function and therefore will vary from unit to unit.  Performing brain surgery is a very different unit than running a marathon.  Being a parent is very different than being the CEO of a company.

The I is the part of our system, at a basic level, that provides a qualitative experience of satisfaction and meaning to our activities.  It is the source of our perspective on our lives and our world in both an immediate and overall sense.

The health of the I is a big factor in how well we forge with the units that are important to us both in the sense of personal satisfaction and wellbeing and our functional performance in those roles. 

The overall goal of these classes is to help create a more balanced and integrated I and with some similar practices, a more balanced and integrated unit.  This allows a better forging to occur between the I and the unit resulting in more personal satisfaction and better performance. 

We will use the zengo undo exercise as our focus to experience the two parts of the I and how they relate to each other. 

The two parts of the I are, as outlined by O Sensei and many other traditions, the part that is more awareness oriented and the other that is more experientially oriented.  Our shorthand for these is the mind of I (awareness/thinking) and the body of I (feeling/experience).

Our goal initially, is to experience these parts of the I and their interaction with each other.  It is in this interaction that a real  opportunity for growth and development of the I exists.  When there is a lack of connection or even conflict between the parts of the I, we are starting out from a place of fragmentation rather than wholeness.  If the lack of integration is not addressed we will experience the downstream effects of it, in reduced satisfaction and performance. 

One way fragmentation occurs is that a part of the I ranges out and tries to obtain wholeness and satisfaction from outside itself.  An example is when the mind of I tries to direct the unit, it results in both maintaining the fragmentation of the I within itself (less of an experience of personal satisfaction) and interferes with the unit’s ability to perform. 

Everyone has had occasions when they noticed the harder they try to accomplish something the more frustrated they get (I) and the worse their performance becomes (unit).  The image of the kitten trying to extricate itself from a ball of yarn comes to mind, the harder it tries, the more entangled it becomes.  From O Sensei’s perspective this tendency toward entanglement and its results forms a key part of the difficulty of the human condition-The Secret Teachings of Aikido (pg. 53).

Bringing the two parts of the I into a more whole experience with each other is a big step toward reducing entanglement and its resulting negative effects.

Before we go on, let’s look at how O Sensei and others describe the I-The Secret Teachings of Aikido (pgs. 80-82) and Essence of Aikido (pg. 27). 

Here is another perspective from Alex Bennett in his book on Kendo (pgs. xxxii-xxxiii).

Here is another perspective from Prof. Cheng Man-ching-Cheng Tzu’s Thirteen Treatises on T’ai-chi Ch’uan (pg. 34) and Essays on Man and Culture (pgs. 32-33).

We need both the experience of all the basic states of consciousness and a healthy psychology of the I for this to happen.  Ken Wilbur in his book Integral Meditation calls these two types of development waking up (refined state experience) and growing up (psychological health).  The book Zen at War is an example where waking up was not matched with growing up.  

Before we begin to work with the I, let’s bow in and start with a little bit of stretching and then misogi breathing.

Dialoging and Integrating the I

Let’s begin with two rounds of zengo undo.  As we do it try and remember your experience so we can refer back to it as our practice progresses. We want to focus specifically on the two direction movements and how we feel facing in the two different directions.

Now we will review the experience of the two parts of the I, mind of I and body of I, and then practice zengo undo.

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 and move the arms and hands from the top down. Let’s now focus on an experience of awareness using the zengo undo practice as our focus.  Asking the question when you think about the zengo undo practice, what thoughts attract your attention?  This is a way to get in touch with the mind of I.  Then moving the arms and hands from the feet up, let’s work with a similar question.  What are your feelings about zengo undo?  What feelings attract your attention?  This is a way to get in touch with the body of I.
    • Repeat zengo undo and get feedback-how did the focus on the mind and body of I change your experience?
  1. Now that we have a basic experience of mind and body of I, let’s continue with a practice of interaction between them. The mind of I has the capability of mirroring.  It is aware through mirroring what is going on outside the I, and evaluates it.  Turn the mirroring capability of the mind of I inward and allow an image of the body of I form in you as the mind of I.  Then making a shift in perspective from mind of I to body of I, as body of I use your unique capability to mirror the mind of I.  We now have these two parts of the I mirroring each other.  Through this mutual experience there is a greater sense of alignment, integration and wholeness in your experience of yourself as I.  From this experience your interaction with the unit and the rest of creation comes from a place of wholeness rather than fragmentation.
    • Repeat zengo undo and get feedback-how did the interactive practice change your experience? Which movement do you identify with what part of the I?
  1. Let’s continue the class with a practice of inner dialog between the parts of the I. Start the practice with either mind or body of I first.  Our question is, what is going well in the relationship with the other and what would you like more of?  This is a way to experience and reinforce what is going well and work to improve the areas that are not going so well.  In the areas not going so well, a moment or two of full presence will usually bring in a sense of how to resolve the issue.  Then repeat the process with the other part of the I. 
  • Repeat zengo undo and get feedback-how did the inner dialog between mind and body of I change your experience?
  1. Let’s spend more time on allowing this process of resolution to begin by returning to the experience of dialog we just worked on. It begins not by straining to bring greater integration about or even to know where to start.  It begins by maintaining a sense of active presence and allowing the “answer” to materialize organically and naturally.  Once the process of integration starts, maintain that same sense of active presence rather than trying to hurry it or make it happen.
    • Repeat zengo undo and get feedback-how did this deeper experience of inner dialog and harmony between mind and body of I change your experience?


In this class we deepened our experience of the two basic aspects of the I.  Today, we focused on a fuller dialog between the two parts of the I and how than can lead to an experience of greater integration and wholeness.  The practical benefit provided by this kind of practice is we can experience the root cause of inner conflict and have some success in resolving it-The Spirit of Aikido (pgs. 46-49).