In our last on-line class we started a series of classes on the unit.
The unit is the part of ourselves 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. One of the most commonly asked question in Aikido is, why is it so difficult to transfer the good feeling I get in class to other activities? One response is that the energies of Aikido are unique to Aikido. The chemistry is the same but the chemicals (energies of the unit) are different in each situation.
The unit is the clothing we wear to accomplish particular tasks or assume particular roles. O Sensei called the unit haku-Essence of Aikido (pg.27).
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 overall goal of this series of classes is to help create a more balanced and integrated unit that functions better and allows a better forging to occur between the I and the unit resulting in better performance and more personal satisfaction.
Our goal initially, is to experience the basic parts of the unit and their interaction with each other. It is in this conscious interaction that a real opportunity for a balanced and integrated unit exists. If the basic parts of the unit are not consciously experienced we may miss important elements of the unit and therefore start from a place of fragmentation rather than wholeness. Our best experience is not available for the task at hand and if it is not addressed we will experience the downstream negative effects of it, in reduced performance and satisfaction.
One way fragmentation occurs is when action is taken from only some of the energies of the unit that are the most readily available to our experience. An example is we get a good idea of taking action and without allowing a more complete experience of the other energies that make up the unit of that idea we run out of energy and can’t complete the task well or at all. This can happen when the idea or one of the other energies of the unit is put in a position of carrying the whole task of performance. A fully formed unit is much more likely to produce the outcome we envision.
O Sensei laid out the parts of a fully integrated unit-Essence of Aikido (pgs. 32-33). He called them the four souls and the eight powers.
The four souls
- The intelligent soul
- The rough soul
- The gentle soul
- The optimistic soul.
The eight powers
- Movement and calm
- Release and solidification
- Retraction and extension
- Unification and division.
These are high-level examples of what makes up a fully functioning unit. We are going to work with his four-count model and apply it specifically to the units we experience.
The version of the counts of the unit we will work within this series of classes is:
Four Count Model
Not so Obvious
the intuitive element and
the unifying principle.
The first two energies we refer to as the obvious ones. They come up easily and often. What is my goal and how will I achieve it? The second two we call the not so obvious because they often have to be focused on specifically in order to be consciously experienced.
One example of the four counts is the task of building a house.
- Energy 1-the idea
is like the architect who does the design and provides the blueprint.
- Energy 2- the contractor
who actually builds the house using the blueprint from the architect as a guide and a starting point.
- Energy 3- the interior designer
who crafts the living space so the house is not only livable but a pleasure to live in.
- Energy 4- the overall manager
who brings the other three together into a fully working unit.
One very important principle throughout this series is that every unit has value!
We will use a kata like version of a basic Aikido technique as our physical reference.
Before we begin to work with the unit, let’s bow in and start with misogi breathing and a good full warm-up.
A tip on the misogi breathing is to visualize as your breath goes out that you experience a state internal emptiness, which creates a readiness to be filled. Use the pause after the exhalation to experience this openness to being filled by universal energies of health and wellbeing. Then rather than a forceful inhalation relax and feel the life giving energies coming in with a relaxed inhalation. The pause after the inhalation is a time to feel your entire system; body, mind and spirit absorbing the energies of health and wellbeing. As you repeat the cycle of breathing it is like filling a reservoir with energetic sustenance.
Fullness of the Unit
We will use the basic Aikido technique ten-chi nage or heaven and earth throw as our practice technique. Please refer to the video of the technique for a clear visual of the movement.
- Let’s begin with two rounds of ten-chi nage. As we do it try and remember your experience so we can refer back to it as our practice progresses.
- Feedback on the first round of practice.
Now we will work on each count of the energies of this unit- ten-chi nage-in turn to directly experience what each adds to create the fullness of the unit.
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.
- As we do the ten-chi nage practice, ask the question what is your idea of the technique? This is a way to get in touch with count 1 of this unit. A moment or two of full presence will usually bring in a sense of what count 1 or the idea energy of this unit is.
- Get feedback-how did the focus on count 1, the idea of the technique change your experience?
- Let’s move on to the second count of this unit which is the structure. As we do the ten-chi nage practice, ask the question what is your experience of the structure of the technique? This is a way to get in touch with count 2 of this unit. A moment or two of full presence will usually bring in a sense of what count 2 or the structure energy of this unit is.
- Get feedback-how did the focus on count 2, the structure of the technique change your experience?
- Now working on the third count of this unit which is the intuitive. As we do the ten-chi nage practice, ask the question what is your experience of the intuitive energy of the technique? This is a way to get in touch with count 3 of this unit. A moment or two of full presence will usually bring in a sense of what count 3 or the intuitive energy of this unit is. What is the beauty, the poetry of this technique? Often the first of the not so obvious counts will feel bigger spatially than the first two counts.
- Get feedback-how did the focus on count 3, the intuitive energy of the technique change your experience?
- Let’s move on to the fourth count of this unit which is the unifying energy. As we do the ten-chi nage practice, ask the question what is your experience of the unifying energy of the technique? This is a way to get in touch with count 4 of this unit. A moment or two of full presence will usually bring in a sense of what count 4 or the unifying energy of this unit is.
- Get feedback-how did the focus on count 4, the unifying energy of the technique change your experience?
- There are milestones of fullness in units moving to a deeper level of consciousness with which we can then identify as our center of gravity, just as we experienced with the I. Nadeau Sensei uses the analogy of starting out as tourist in a new place; then becoming a resident and then a citizen. Using the larger context from Saotome Sensei’s perspective on the connection between the personal and universal-A Light on Transmission Mitsugi Saotome (pg. 23), let’s go through one more round of ten-chi nage practice as our reference, and begin to experience the movement from this more universal perspective. Let’s do a round of the circle center practice and allow a moment for the energies of the unit to adjust. This adjustment will often create a disruption through which we must relax and open to the larger version of the energies of the unit.
- Repeat ten-chi nage and get feedback-how did working with the technique from a more universal perspective change your experience?
In this class we worked with the energies of the unit. This included identifying and experiencing, at a working level, the four basic energies that make up the unit and what they each contribute to a fuller experience and improved performance. We then started a process of shifting dimensions from the personal to the universal and worked with the energies of the unit at that level.
Practice before next class
Pick a unit that you have had difficulty with in the past and work with the four counts of that unit repeating three times and note any insights or changes you experience.
Journey to the Heart of Aikido Linda Holiday (pg. 188).