A Deeper Experience of the Void and the Unit

A Deeper Experience of the Void and the Unit


In our last on-line class we continued to practice with the energies of the unit:  idea; structure; intuitive principle and unifying energy.  Our practice expanded to experience the unit in manifest, hidden and divine dimensions of consciousness and then added the experience of the void.  Our Aikido technique was katate-dori kokyu nage.  We practiced to experience the technique in manifest, hidden, divine and the void both as uke and nage.

Our continuing goal was to experience the difference in the unit in each realm and see how they could benefit and complement each other.  We want to explore the nature of functionality in each of these states of consciousness.   

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, has been 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.  

We have focused on laying out a map of consciousness and practicing how to navigate on that map.  We all know that the map is not the territory.  Keeping that in mind, we have shifted to a more experiential practice utilizing what we have gained from the previous classes.  We will still refer to the map but in a less reflective way and put more focus on the experiential, relying on our previous practice with the map to help us to navigate it.

Noel Burch, educational trainer, developed a model of mastering a skill called the Four Stages of Competence.  The four stages are:  unconsciousness incompetence-I don’t know what I don’t know; conscious incompetence-I know what I don’t know; conscious competence-I know what I know and unconscious competence-I can manifest what I know without having to think about it.  In this class and the previous classes we are moving through this process to conscious competence and the early stages of unconscious competence.  At this final stage our ability to function as a balanced and integrated unit can happen without reflection on the four counts.  When we then move to the next level of that unit the process is repeated perhaps skipping the first stage of unconscious incompetence.  When changing from one unit to another we may go back to the first stage of unconscious incompetence.

Aikido is an art that teaches us to productively deal with feedback, both positive and negative in a healthy way.  The feedback helps to emphasize the positive part of our experience and work to improve negative experience.

We will add to the practice we started in our last class to work with a multi-dimensional experience of the unit including manifest, hidden and divine, but add the integrating experience of the void. 

The void is that aspect of existence which is most basic.  It is most basic in that it is the source of all aspects of the creation but is not “created” itself.  It is ever present and unchanging.  One way to approach understanding the void is a principle called the two truths doctrine The Religion of Tomorrow Ken Wilbur (pgs. 23 and 164). 

As we move into an experience of the void at first it is an experience of the absolute unchanging state.  As our experience of the void gets more and more full it reaches a state of non-duality where even the distinction between the relative and absolute realms is transcended.

Let’s bow in and start with misogi breathing and a good full warm-up.

Our tip today on the misogi breathing is to continue to work on the five principles of misogi breathing from Koichi Tohei Sensei:  let’s focus on the fourth of the five principles- breathe in from the tip of your nose until your body is full of air.  By combining this principle with the first three we get both a more complete experience both inhaling and exhaling. 

Five Principles for Ki Breathing

Multi-Dimensional Experience of the Unit

Today we will use the basic Aikido technique katate-dori ikkyo as our practice technique.  Please refer to the video of the technique on our Facebook Group for a clear visual of the movement.  Our goal today is to expand the practice with the unit in all three basic dimensions of consciousness:  manifest; hidden and divine and deepen our experience of the void.  Details about these dimensions are available in class notes and videos on our dojo web site.  We will move through the first three-the manifest, hidden and divine-a little more quickly as we did last time so we can spend some time on the void.  We will carry the experience of the void even deeper than we did in our last class.

  1. Let’s begin with a round of katate-dori ikkyo in the manifest. Start just focusing on the experience of your body.  What aspect of your body attracts your attention?  Then shifting the focus from the body to your current physical environment, what attracts your attention there? 

This provides an initial experience of you as a physical being in a physical world.  Then let’s focus on the physical experience of you both as the uke and nage.  Uke stepping in with a grab for the hand and then nage turning and throwing.  What is your experience?  Feel the depth of contact with your partner’s entire body.  What energies are called up in your system as you step in and throw?

Now let’s shift to the hidden dimension of subtle energies.  We can make the shift from manifest/physical to hidden/energetic through our basic practice of feeling energy flow between our hands and then using the universal post practice by opening the hands and arms in a circle to feel a fuller sense of the energy body.  Then to complete the transition let’s go to our circle/center practice to experience ourselves as an energy being in an energy world.  What energies in your system does this practice bring up?  Then let’s go back to the technique both as uke and nage to see how your experience of this unit changes in the hidden dimension. 

Now let’s shift to the divine dimension of creative emptiness.  We can use the circle/center practice to enter a state of deep quiet.  This quiet is a doorway to the divine dimension of creative emptiness.  The divine body in the divine world is like an outline of a potential body, but is still a real body with real experience.  What divine energies in your system does the practice bring up?  Then let’s go back to the technique and see how your experience of this unit changes in the divine dimension.

    • Get feedback-your experience of the technique in the manifest, hidden and divine dimensions? How are they different from each other? 
  1. Now we will move to the experience of the void. To begin let’s go back to the circle/center practice and to that place of great quiet. Within that space of great quiet allow the void to fill that space.  This is a doorway to the direct experience of the void.  It is most important to maintain your center as there are no external reference points in the void.  One approach to maintaining an experience of center is that center in an infinite unchanging space is everywhere. Each point is equidistant from all other points.  Therefore every place in the void is center.  To translate this principle into experience let’s use a practice of mirroring.  All parts of the void mirror each other equally.  This allows a fullness of experience and having a center as a reference point.  To move from this experience to a practice of functionality in the void, let’s refer back to O Sensei’s description-The Secret Teachings of Aikido (pg. 53).  This is the foundation for experiencing the seeming paradox of functionality in the void.  Let’s now go back to the technique of katate-dori kokyu nage from the void.
    • What is your experience? How is it unique when compared with the previous experiences of the technique?
  1. We can now move from an experience of the void as something distinct from the creation to an even more inclusive experience that transcends even the distinction between relative and absolute. O Sensei and many other spiritual traditions refer to this as the experience of pure light-The Heart of Aikido (pgs. 48-49).  To move from the poetry of O Sensei’s description to a direct experience we can start with the experience of all parts of the void mirroring each other.  As full and unifying as this experience is we can allow it to progress to the point that light from the universal mirroring fills the void.  This moves beyond the movement of light between parts of the void to a state of completeness.  O Sensei called this Hikari-The Essence of Aikido (pg. 94).  From this place of non-dual experience let’s go back to katate-dori ikkyo and practice with the functionality provided by this unifying experience.
    • What is your experience? How is it unique when compared with the previous experiences of the technique?


In this class we continued to extend our practice of the unit to include a more full experience of the void.  Our goal was to experience the unit in each of these three basic dimensions and in the void.  We also wanted to focus on how they can be of benefit to each other and to you as a whole person.   

Practice before next class: 

Use the practice of katate-dori ikkyo as a physical metaphor for a unit and extend the practice to the fullness of the void.  See how the void can add its own benefit to your practice. 

The Heart of Aikido (pgs. 78-79).