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 Secret Power Within Zen Solutions to Real Problems by Chuck Norris (pgs. 53-56).
In our last on-line class we continued a series of classes about dealing with challenging situations from a place of wholeness. We also focused on using the energies that correspond to that situation to mix up a unit with the functional capacity to effectively work with challenging situations.
Our goal with this series is to strengthen our ability to respond to the daily life situations we encounter from a place of wholeness rather than fragmentation. When we engage with challenging activities, either because they are difficult or ones for which we feel enthusiasm, the I can react in ways that causes internal conflict and other forms of difficulty.
One example is the mind of I separating itself from the body of I and getting entangled with the unit. A second example is the body of I pulling in and separating itself from the mind of I with the resulting absence of grounding and support for the mind of I. In a previous series of classes a few years ago we called this movement towards fragmentation the flash response.
The second element in this series which we will again focus on today is to recognize the presence of an energy “pool” which may be the source of the situation when it is internally or voluntarily initiated by us. The energy pool may also come about as a natural response to provide the energy we need to effectively work with a situation that is generated externally. O Sensei and many other spiritual traditions teach it is a universal law that we are provided with the energy needed to deal with difficulties when a challenging situation presents itself.
Our goal when we sense the push from the energy pool is to recognize it as an opportunity to allow the energy to create a unit. We are creating a unit capable of responding from a place of wholeness and inner harmony rather than fragmentation and internal conflict.
Our shorthand name, borrowing from Nadeau Sensei, for this moment of recognition is a doorbell. Our goal is to recognize the doorbell as a signal not to entangle or withdraw but as an opportunity to reinforce the inner relationship between the two parts of the I and to allow the energies generated by the situation to mix a unit that can respond effectively.
Today we will focus on two specific areas of practice.
Enhancing the unit
First, to sense at a more subtle level than we have so far as we mix a unit that the energies go to the unit and don’t “move over” in a way that disrupts the inner harmony of the I. This kind of drift can happen when there is a remaining entanglement at a subtle level between the I and the unit. If we can experience this when the unit is being mixed we can re-direct the energies back to unit. This both strengthens the unit and further reduces the potential for fragmentation within the I.
Working with a challenge
Second, when a difficulty presents itself that interferes with our performance, we want to avoid shifting our attention from the unit to the I. This can cause the I to tighten up and move again toward fragmentation as the I attempts to remedy the situation. What is understandable frustration when we meet obstacles, can result in the I tightening, fragmenting and entangling with the unit.
Like our overall approach to the flash response, the sooner we can detect this movement away from wholeness and functionality the easier it is to avoid or reverse.
Our Aikido technique for today will be kata-dori ikkyo.
Let’s bow in and start with misogi breathing and a good full warm-up.
Our tip today on the misogi breathing is to feel during each pause in the cycle of out and in breath a sense of energetic wholeness.
Five Principles for Ki Breathing
- 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
Let’s begin with a round of practice with the technique.
- Begin with a round of practice of kata-dori ikkyo.
- Get feedback on the technique to establish a baseline to use for comparison as the practice progresses.
Feeding the Unit and Fullness of the I
As we focus our attention on the technique as our situation of the moment, we will start by reinforcing the relationship of inner harmony between the two parts of the I. We want to perform the technique as well as we can and with a high degree of personal satisfaction. If the I becomes fragmented in that effort, we will not be able to achieve either good performance or personal satisfaction. Before going back to the technique let’s practice mirroring between the parts of the I in an effort to make inner harmony more attractive than the tendency toward the flash response. This may seem like an easy choice in the abstract but we live and make choices in the moment not in the abstract.
Related to this is trying to experience the movement within the I toward fragmentation as close to its starting point as possible. This makes the movement toward wholeness easier because the movement toward fragmentation hasn’t gathered very much momentum. The less momentum toward fragmentation the easier it is to reverse it and move toward wholeness.
Our more basic goal in this part of our practice is to train with the I so that increasingly the movement toward wholeness is our initial response. Then we don’t have to reverse the movement toward fragmentation. Perfection in this is probably not attainable but a percentage improvement may be.
- Now let’s return to the technique to see if the mirroring practice we just did is helpful. If not we can repeat the practice or work even more deeply with the I if necessary.
- Now let’s put our attention on the pool of energy that corresponds to the technique/situation on which we are currently focused. The energy is freely available to mix up a unit with the functional capacity to perform the technique effectively. This mixing process is the same one we use in our forging practice.
Let’s use the four count process we practiced in our classes on the Unit. Count one is the idea or blueprint. Count two is the structure or implementation of the idea count. This count provides the framework and support needed to implement the idea. In the absence of count two, the idea count is asked to do both jobs and often doesn’t have the energy to accomplish both tasks. Count three is the intuitive element or spirit of the technique. It provides the poetry or artistry that allows the technique to rise above basic functionality. Count four is the organizing principle which brings the other three counts and count four itself into a unified functioning whole.
Let’s take our time here and allow each count a full turn.
Let’s then do a second round of 4 counts this time paying special attention to the energies staying with the unit and not moving over and disrupting the internal harmony of the unit. At the same time we want to pay attention to the tendency of the I to entangle with the energies whose purpose is to mix up a functioning unit that is a balanced partner with the I but is not entangled with the I.
Once the mixing and jelling has come together into an embodied functioning unit of kata-dori ikkyo we can go back to the technique and see if it has helped improve our performance and personal satisfaction.
- Now let’s return to the technique and see if the unit practice we just did is helpful. If not we can repeat the practice or work more deeply with the unit if necessary.
- One of our basic goals in the practice of Aikido is to seek opportunities for continuing to grow and development. Working with the four count process we just practiced presents us with just such an opportunity. Looking back at the four counts we just experienced, let’s ask the question are there one of more counts that could benefit from some additional attention? For example, is one of the counts, say count three of the not so obvious, a little behind the others in fullness of expression?
This is not an exercise in self-criticism but openness to an opportunity for growth and development through fine tuning our mixing of the unit.
Once you have identified a count that will benefit from additional help, let’s give it a moment of your full attention. One way to work with the count is to treat it like a part of yourself that can engage in an inner dialog with the rest of you. This can take the form of a question: what will help you (the count that is behind) to feel more balanced and integrated with the other counts? Using O Sensei’s principle of the mountain echo (the yamabiko), maintain a sense of fullness and presence and wait for the returning echo to provide what is needed to achieve the greater degree of balance and integration you are looking for.
- Now let’s return to the technique and see if the fine tuning of the unit practice we just did is helpful. If not we can repeat the practice or work more deeply with the unit if necessary.
Let’s now increase the intensity of the practice by visualizing the kata-dori grab is much stronger and more persistent, resulting in a more resistant practice partner. At that time it will be very possible that the focus goes from the unit and the fullness of the I to an I that becomes tight and fragmented. This can also result in the I entangling with the unit with predictable results. As we experience this breakdown in the wholeness of the I and harmonious relationship between the I and the unit let’s go back to the technique and see how it affects our performance.
- Now let’s return to the technique and see how this tightening has affected our experience with the technique. Then using the circle/center practice let’s open up and re-balance the system and repeat the technique again, hopefully with better results. We will do a more detailed re-balancing in our next class.
We continued work with what we are calling the doorbell, when a situation presents us with an opportunity to reinforce the inner harmony of the I and allow the pool of energy corresponding to the situation to mix up an effectively functioning unit.
In today’s class we explored more deeply the mixing process and ways we can experience and correct problems that may arise.
Feedback and discussion.
The Heart of Aikido translated by John Stevens (pg. 29).
Practice before next class
Select a daily life task and work with the process we practiced today, paying attention when we meet resistance to the potential of the I entangling with the energies of the unit and fragmentation reasserting itself.
Finish with misogi breathing and bowing out.