Creating a Daily Practice

Creating a Daily Practice

I appreciate everyone participating in this new format and welcome to everyone coming for the first time.  We are working to keep our regular class schedule going so it will be easier to return to our training together.

Please share any comments, suggestions or questions.

This difficult time; while we wish it was not going on, is an opportunity to deepen our practice by appreciating what is really important to us and what we can let go of-The Heart of Aikido translated by John Stevens (pgs. 69-70). 

Introduction

In our last on-line class we continued to work on forging.  Our practice included experience of all the basic parts of our system involved in forging:  the call-off; the space; the unit and the I.  We added the focus of an Aikido technique katate-dori ikkyo as our call-off.  We focused our attention on experiencing the benefits of becoming the forged one with the resulting improvement in functionality and wellbeing. 

Our goal with this series of classes is to deepen both our understanding and experience of the forging process and its benefits.

In our class today we will offer some principles and practices to allow the creation of your own daily practice if that interests you.

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

Our tip today on the misogi breathing will be based on feedback from everyone who has practiced misogi breathing. 

Five Principles for Ki Breathing

  1. Breathe out with the sound of HA, don’t let your breath just leak out
  2. Breathe out as calmly and quietly as possible
  3. Breathe out the Ki of your head to the Ki of your toes
  4. Breathe in from the tip of your nose until your body is full of air
  5. Calm your mind infinitely smaller at the one point after inhaling

Goal of a Daily Practice

The goal of a daily practice is something that is a highly individual choice.  The goal as well as the practice will also probably evolve over time.  Two goals that are good considerations to start with are maintaining a level of centering and awareness that is deep enough to provide a good foundation from which to begin practice sessions in any spiritual discipline either in a class or on your own.  While we all experience down days, a daily practice helps you to avoid the feeling that you are starting each practice session from ground zero.  Second it is a basis for growth and development moving forward with less resistance-The Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate-Gichin Funakoshi (pgs. 67-68) and Perfection of Character Teruyuki Okazaki (pgs. 101-106). 

A daily practice is a good way to help you realize the benefits of long term, in-depth practice.  A most important element in creating a daily practice is the time involved and contents of the practice have to fit your schedule and life style or you won’t be able to maintain it long term.  I will share some of the elements of my daily practice not to encourage you to follow them but as an example.

Elements of a Daily Practice

Starting With A Practice to Calm and Settle. 

O Sense talked about chinkon-ki shin, which means calming the spirit and returning to the source-The Secrets of Aikido John Stevens (pg. 53)- The Essence of Aikido (pgs. 97-98).   There is extensive practice information in the chapter on Chinkon-kishin in the book The Secrets of Aikido.  O Sensei’s practice of Breath of Heaven, Breath of Earth and Breath of Human Beings is detailed in the book Aikido the Way of Harmony by John Stevens (pgs. 29-36).   Linda Holiday’s wonderful book Journey to the Heart of Aikido has a detailed description of another one of O Sensei’s versions of this practice (pgs. 301-310).

  1. My settling practice is a standing meditation practice I learned from Professor Cheng. There is no reason to select this practice.  It is offered only as an example.  It is described in Prof. Cheng’s book The Thirteen Treatises on T’ai-chi Ch’uan Chapter (pgs. 30-33).
  • Feedback on practice.

Healthful Practice

One valuable part of a daily practice may include some form of healthful exercise.  There are a very wide variety of options available. One possible option is a yoga routine such as the Soorya Namaskar or Sun Salutation which is a series of 12 yoga postures that can be learned easily.  One source is The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga by Swami Vishnudevananda (pgs. 69-79).  Another option is any martial art that has katas such as Karate, Kung-fu, Chi Gung or T’ai-chi.  The practice could also be a simple stretching routine as the Active Isolated Stretching Routine I use.

  1. We will go through the first four postures of the T’ai-chi form I practice as an example. I will also offer some T’ai-chi self- massage practices for the knees/kidneys and for digestion that I do after completing the T’ai-chi form. 

Kototama

O Sensei was a dedicated practitioner of kototama which in Japanese means spirit sounds.  Every spiritual tradition has some form of chanting or vocal training as part of their practice.  It is a form of spiritual attunement.  I have my practice of kototama at this point in my daily practice because I feel I am most open to creating attunement.

Two of John Steven’s books have details on kototama.  One is the The Secrets of Aikido (pgs. 145-148) and the other is The Essence of Aikido (pgs. 13-21). 

The practice doesn’t have to be vocalized out loud, but this does provide a certain kind of power and connection.

  1. We will practice the kototama that Nadeau Sensei learned from O Sensei and I learned from Nadeau Sensei. I have added some additional practices to it including the rowing exercise and kuji-kiri.  Again this is offered as a sample and you may find a practice that works better for you or that a vocalized practice isn’t something you want to include.

A Vigorous Practice

You may want to include a vigorous practice at the end of your daily practice as an invigorating way to start the rest of your day.  It can provide a mildly aerobic completion to your daily practice.

  1. I will share the misogi no ken and misogi no jo practice I use, but there are many other choices. It could be as simple as mild calisthenics or a ride on stationary bike. 

The final part of my daily practice is food for the mind with some spiritual reading.  We have all of history to choose from,  ranging from the oldest scriptures from India, China or Israel to modern writers such as Joseph Campbell.  The goal is to conclude your practice by creating a spiritual context for the remainder of the day.  Read whatever you select slowly and carefully so it makes a lasting impression you can carry through your day.

Conclusion

A daily practice you craft and allow to evolve over time can greatly enrich your day.  It can also provide a solid foundation for all forms of spiritual practices and help you to advance more easily and consistently.

Feedback and discussion.

Practice before next class:  Consider and try out the elements of a daily practice that you think will work well for you.

Finish with misogi breathing and bowing out.

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