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 Art of Aikido Kisshomaru Ueshiba translated by John Stevens (pgs. 77-79).
In our last on-line class we returned to our work with forging. We expanded the focus to include forging in manifest and hidden dimensions of consciousness.
Our goal with this series of classes was to deepen both our understanding and experience of the forging process and its benefits.
Today we are starting a series of classes on the growth and development of the I. Our goal in this series of classes is to focus on a direct experience of the growth potential of the I. We will explore the growth potential of the I from our starting point at level 1 in two ways.
First, is to work to improve the balance and integration of the I at level 1. This is important because we want to avoid the growth of an unbalanced I. As the I grows to deeper and fuller levels its capabilities also grow. In an unbalanced I this increases the potential for greater levels of entanglement with resulting downstream problems. The potential for greater levels of entanglement occur because of an increase in both the internal conflicts within the I and greater and more powerful kinds of interference by the I with other parts of the system.
Second, are the growth opportunities to move from the level 1 I to increasingly refined levels of the I. These changes are so profound that we may want to change the name from I to soul; true self; atman; supreme identity or as O Sensei called it the most original self. He regarded the most original self as the consciousness present even before the beginning of creation.
In our class today we will use the Aikido technique katate-dori kokyu nage as our technique.
Let’s bow in and start with misogi breathing and a good full warm-up.
Our tip today on the misogi breathing is during the exhalation visualize exhaling all negativity from your system. Then visualize inhaling a sense of freshness, health and wholeness and seeing that spread throughout your body, mind and spirit.
Five Principles for Ki Breathing
- Breathe out with the sound of HA, don’t let your breath just leak out
- Breathe out as calmly and quietly as possible
- Breathe out the Ki of your head to the Ki of your toes
- Breathe in from the tip of your nose until your body is full of air
- Calm your mind infinitely smaller at the one point after inhaling
Working With the Level 1 I or Starting Place
Accepting Our Starting Place
It is important to accept our starting place and even to honor it. Our level 1 I deserves that respect because it got us to the place where we can begin to train. Acceptance of our level 1 I also helps to reduce the amount of entanglement at the beginning of our practice session and life in general. Virtually all the great spiritual traditions tell us we need to transcend the ego. It is certainly true we want to grow beyond our starting place when we are ready to do so. But starting out with a negative judgmental attitude toward our starting place increases the difficulty in beginning that desired process of transcendence. Acceptance doesn’t mean we turn away from our efforts to grow and develop. It does mean we are trying to avoid unnecessary entanglement as we begin our practice.
Before we begin our work with the level 1 I let’s do a round of practice with the technique.
1 Begin with a round of practice of katate-dori kokyu nage both uke and nage.
Get feedback on the technique to establish a baseline to be used for comparison as the practice progresses.
The “I” is the part of our system that is the center of our sense of personal identity. Regardless of which unit is currently in play; which call-off we are working on; or in which space-we are still “I”. One possible analogy is that the unit is the clothing and “I” is the body. The I is present regardless of the clothing currently being worn.
It is difficult to get away from describing practice in terms that don’t reference the body. But the body is not part of the “I”. The body is of the Unit. The “I” exists in a way that is independent of the Unit because it exists regardless of the unit in play or even if there is no unit at all.
The “I” has two parts, one is the more awareness oriented part of the “I”. The awareness part of the “I” spends most of its time looking outward. This outward focus allows the system to be aware of activities in the creation especially those that relate to the unit. Our shorthand name for the awareness part of the I is the mind of I. The second part of the I is the more experiential feeling part. The feeling part has a more inward focus. Our shorthand name for the experiential part of the I is the body of I.
- We can work with the experience of I to improve our balance and integration. One way to approach this is mirroring. This reflective orientation has both a physical and value oriented aspect. The physical one is related to health, safety and other areas of importance to the overall system, such as detecting possible threats or desirable events. The value oriented aspect looks at outside events in terms of satisfaction or dissatisfaction. I like this; I don’t like that. I don’t want that; I want more of that. You can provide the details here with your preferences and dislikes.
A mirror is one of the three parts of the Imperial Regalia that was provided to first Japanese Emperor by the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu according to the Kojiki.
The Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters) is the primary creation scripture of Japan. It was compiled between 682 and 712 AD.
O Sensei was a lifelong student of the Kojiki. One of the stories he referred to the most often was when the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu retired into a cave behind an immovable rock or stone door because the Storm God Susano destroyed her rice fields. (See the Univ. of Tokyo Press translation of the Kojiki by Donald L. Philippi pg. 81)
This plunged the world into cold and darkness. The other gods and goddesses in an effort to lure her out of the cave and return light and warmth to the world, convinced one of the goddess to dance in front of the cave creating a great uproar. This piqued Amaterasu’s curiosity and she moved the stone door aside a crack to see what was causing the uproar. When she moved aside the stone door she saw herself reflected in a mirror the other gods had hung from a tree. This surprising image encouraged her to open the stone door further and further so she could see more of herself. Eventually she came out of the cave as she experienced herself more fully (seeing her true self) and restored light and warmth to the world. Below is a painting depicting her coming out of the cave.
O Sensei compared the creation of Aikido to the second opening of the stone door. Here is a poem he wrote about it.
Amid three thousand worlds
a single plum flower
the stone door will
open a second time.
Although ideas expressed in this doka are derived from Shinto mythology (Kojiki Book One Chapter 17) and Omotokyo beliefs, in Morihei’s idiom it means: “Aikido, a rare flower now in bloom throughout the universe, gives us the means to open the stone door of darkness and ignorance; through the combined efforts of good people everywhere the polluted world of death and destruction will be bathed once more in the sunbeams of truth and beauty.” The plum blossom is a symbol of resurrection and renewal, and it blooms wherever Aikido is truly practiced. (The Essence of Aikido by John Stevens, page 59)
We are using the mirroring capability of the awareness part of the “I”, the mind of “I” by turning this mirroring capability inward. This is in the spirit of the story in Kojiki because what restored the light and warmth to the world was the Sun Goddess seeing her true and complete reflection.
The mirroring ability of the mind of “I” is turned inward on its other half, the more feeling part of the “I” we call the body of “I”. At this point in the practice our goal is to allow an image of the body of “I” to form in the mirroring mind of “I”. The clearer this mental image is the more successful the rest of the practice will be.
- Practice the first part of mirroring as the mind of I mirrors the body of I. What is the mirrored image of the body of I?
Once a clear image of the more experiential part of the “I”, the body of “I” has formed, the practice continues by shifting the focus to the body of “I”.
It is a good idea to take a moment or two to allow this shift to occur. It is fundamentally a shift in perspective from thinking or awareness to feeling, both of which are key parts of our system necessary for healthy functionality. Functionality that is healthier in the sense that we can go through our lives with less internal conflict. It also helps us get better at noticing internal conflict and working to resolve it more effectively.
One way to determine that the shift from the mind of “I” to the body of “I” has occurred is to notice the difference in feeling. Usually, the body of “I” is quieter, with less mental background noise and a more steady grounded experience.
- Next is to follow the same process as the one we did with the mind of “I”, by having the body of “I” mirror the mind of “I”. The experience of the body of “I” mirroring the mind of “I” may be different than the mind of “I” mirroring its counterpart. This is due to the inherent difference between awareness or thinking and feeling or more direct experiencing.
The two parts of the “I” are reaching out to each other achieving greater alignment, integration and wholeness. This wholeness of the “I” is crucial because it helps to reduce the level of internal conflict within the system.
If there is difficulty in bringing the thinking and feeling parts of our system together highlighting that problem and bringing it to a more conscious awareness is very valuable because we can work to address the split in our system between thinking and feeling. This split can be a source of frustration because it inhibits healthy functionality and enjoyment of life. You can see in this painting by Van Gogh how strong the heavenly energies are and how truncated the earthly ones are.
So at this point let’s ask the question of both parts of the I, what is working well in our relationship and what would we like more of. Experiencing wholeness of the “I” is an important check point before we begin to work toward deeper/fuller levels of I. The question of when the experience of wholeness is good enough to move on is an important one. While it is a subjective judgement, one simple approach is to say out loud, even if you are practicing alone, the answer to the question about the relationship each part of the I has with the other. If it is difficult to formulate the statement or the experience of wholeness doesn’t seem to improve, then more time with the level 1 I may be needed.
- Let’s now go back to the technique and see if the more whole I practice we did is reflected in improved performance and satisfaction as you go through some repetitions. The technique is also a good form of feedback about whether we are ready to begin the process of moving to the level 2 I.
- Get feedback on the technique, if there is an improved level of performance.
We have begun the process of development from a level 1 I to the deeper/fuller levels of I. The starting point is to work with the level 1 I, so we can engage in the process of growth from a starting point of balance and integration. This can help us to avoid magnifying internal conflicts as we achieve greater levels of personal power and broader interaction. It is generally far easier to work to resolve inner conflict and related issues at level 1 than later in the process of growth.
Feedback and discussion.
Practice before next class:
Aikido and the Harmony of Nature by Mitsugi Saotome (pg. 183).
Finish with misogi breathing and bowing out.