In our last on-line class we practiced with the four basic energies of the unit: idea; structure; intuitive principle and unifying energy. We practiced with these four energies of the unit as they are manifested in the Aikido technique ten-chi nage, the heaven and earth throw.
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 questions in Aikido is, why is it so difficult to transfer the good feeling I get in class to other activities? One response is 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, one to which we don’t generally give much attention. Some basic units are much more a part of our identity than others. Examples include your choice of work; your place in a family or other important social groups.
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. If that is not addressed we will experience the downstream negative effects of that fragmentation, 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 don’t allow an experience of the other energies that make up the unit of that idea. We may then 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 are: the intelligent soul; the rough soul; the gentle soul and the optimistic soul.
The eight powers are: movement and calm; release and solidification; retraction and extension and unification and division.
These are high level examples of what makes up a fully functioning unit. We are going to work with this four count model and apply it specifically to the units we experience.
As stated earlier the version of the four counts of the unit with which we will work in this series of classes is: the idea; the structure; 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 need specific focus 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-is the contractor who actually builds the house using the blueprint from the architect as a guide and a starting point. Energy 3-is the interior designer who crafts the living space so the house is not only livable but a pleasure to live in. Energy 4-is 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 it is a natural expression of openness and not something you have to force. 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 your openness allows a soft inflowing of energy into your mind, body and spirit. The pause after the in breath creates a natural readiness 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 which feeds your entire system long after the breathing exercise has been completed.
Balancing the Unit Through Internal Dialog
We will use the basic Aikido technique shomen-uchi ikkyo as our practice technique. Please refer to the video on our Facebook Group of the technique for a clear visual of the movement.
- Let’s begin with two rounds of shomen-uchi ikkyo. 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- shomen-uchi ikkyo-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 shomen-uchi ikkyo 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. Let’s move on to the second count of this unit which is the structure. As we do the shomen-uchi ikkyo 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 counts 1 and 2, the idea and structure of the technique change your experience?
- Now let’s work on an internal dialog between count 1, the idea and count 2 the structure. Ask the question starting with either count 1 or 2 first, what is working well in our relationship and what could make the relationship work even better? Then repeating the same process with the count you want to work with second. Then practice shomen-uchi ikkyo.
- Get feedback-how did this internal dialog change your experience?
- We have experienced areas in which counts 1 and 2 are in agreement and areas where there are opportunities for improvement. You don’t have to know how to move to the level of greater harmony between counts 1 and 2. Just maintain fullness and presence to allow the counts to absorb the experiences naturally, especially the insights for areas of improvement. Then repeat shomen-uchi ikkyo.
- Get feedback-how did bringing the insights from this internal dialog to fruition change your experience?
- Then repeat the same process for count 3, the intuitive element and count 4 the unifying principle.
- Repeat shomen-uchi ikkyo and get feedback-how did bringing the insights from this internal dialog to fruition with the not so obvious counts 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 practiced an interior dialog designed to allow a better balanced relationship between the energies of the unit.
Practice before next class
Pick a unit that you have had difficulty with in the past and work with the four counts and identify which of the count/s need additional attention in order to achieve a balance with the others, in other words which one or ones is a little behind. Then give that one/ones the attention needed and see how it improves the overall experience of the unit.
The Heart of Aikido (pg. 111).