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 Teachings of Aikido translated by John Stevens (pg. 140).
In our last on-line class we continued our series on dealing with challenging situations from a place of wholeness. We also continued to practice using the energies that correspond to that situation to mix up a functional unit that can work effectively with challenging situations. We advanced our practice to experience at a deeper level than in our previous classes the energies of the unit being free of even subtle entanglement with the I.
We also focused on avoiding a shift to the I, which can create movement toward fragmentation, when we encounter obstacles to working with challenging situations. An important part of our practice is to gain the ability to clear entanglements resulting from trying to reproduce a hoped-for or previously remembered experience. Effective clearing allows us to approach each situation from a fresh and creative perspective. O Sensei called this perspective Takemusu. The result is a unit capable of precisely functioning in the situation with which we are currently interacting.
Our goal with this series is to strengthen our ability to respond to our daily life situations 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 can cause 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 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 complete our series of classes working with the flash response and the doorbell.
Our Aikido technique for today will continue to be katate-dori kokyu nage.
Let’s bow in and start with misogi breathing and a good full warm-up.
Five Principles for Ki Breathing
Breathing focus of the day
Our tip today on the misogi breathing is to feel the spine lengthening as you are inhaling and to feel the spine relaxing as you are exhaling and pausing between inhalation and exhalation.
- 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
Let’s begin with a round of practice with the technique.
- Begin with a round of practice of katate-dori kokyu nage.
- Get feedback on the technique to establish a baseline to use for comparison as the practice progresses.
Living From Fullness of the Unit and the I
- As we focus our attention on the technique as our situation of the moment, let’s reinforce the relationship of inner harmony between the two parts of the I. This is foundational to the rest of our practice.
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 to experience inner harmony as being 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 is to train 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.
The relationship of wholeness between the two parts of the I is individual for each person and even to some degree moment to moment. We are not trying to establish an arbitrary 50% to 50% relationship. The proper balance resulting in wholeness of the I will be unique to each person. What we don’t want is one part of the I to choke off the full expression of the other.
We are trying to build a relationship of fullness for each part of the I as they experience each other.
Let’s deepen our experience of a whole I with a practice of inner dialog between the parts of the I. We can begin this inner dialog with a question for both parts of the I: what can I offer to my other half that will be of benefit? You can start with either part of the I first and then move to the other, but as an example let’s start with the mind of I.
Before asking the body of I (which in our example is going second), to offer benefit to the mind of I, allow the body of I to receive what the mind of I has offered. Then the body of I can offer what it can to benefit the mind of I. We complete the first round of inner dialog by the mind of I receiving what was offered by the body of I. You can certainly continue multiple rounds of this inner dialog on your own.
- 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 in 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.
- 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 develop. 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 begin with the question are there one or more counts that could benefit from some additional attention? For example, is one of the counts, say count three of the not so obvious, is 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 of 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. This practice is designed to improve the balance and integration at the level at which you are currently working. The next practice is designed to allow a dimensional movement to the next level of balance and integration
- 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 intentionally increase the intensity of the practice by asking the question: if I have gotten what I can from this level of practice what is the next deeper level?
Once you have asked the question wait for the echoing response in a state of fullness and presence.
This practice is similar to but not the same as the intensity increasing due to outside forces like the more resistant uke we envisioned in previous classes. The difference is that we asking for the next level to present itself rather than waiting for circumstances to create the need for the next level in order to maintain functionality and personal satisfaction. Using this approach can reduce the amount of stress related to growth and development. It reduces the stress by placing growth and development as a voluntary act rather than that we feel compelled to do by outside forces.
- Now let’s return to the technique and see how this practice has impacted our ability to perform the technique.
This series of classes has focused on what we are calling the doorbell. The doorbell is a message that there is a situation 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 reviewed many of the practices from this series both on the wholeness of the I and the fullness of mixing a functioning unit.
Feedback and discussion.
The Secret Teachings of Aikido translated by John Stevens (pg. 129).
Practice before next class
Review the practices we have worked with in this series and see which ones worked well for you.
Finish with misogi breathing and bowing out.