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 when we 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 Peace translated by John Stevens (pg. 87).
In our last on-line class we continued our series focusing on center. We worked again with a deeper practice of chinkon kishin by adding alchemical imagery of fire/water steam from O Sensei. Chinkon kishin refers to calming the spirit and returning to the divine or the source. The breathing practices related to chinkon kishin O Sensei called the Breath of Heaven; Breath of Earth and the Breath of Human Beings-The Secret Teachings of Aikido translated by John Stevens (pg. 108).
We also continued our work with an alchemical practice which focused on fire-water-steam at center. O Sensei referred to this but did not, as far as we know, leave a detailed outline of the process. We used a practice of fire/water steam at center from T’ai-chi, an art closely related to Aikido and with similar connections to Taoism. The practice is described in detail in the book Cheng Tzu’s Thirteen Treatises on Tai Chi Ch’uan by Professor Cheng Man-ching (Treatise Three pgs. 30-33). Due to our limited class time we will not be repeating this practice today.
These energy oriented practices are a good beginning on our transition from a centered experience of the manifest or physical dimension to a centered experience of the hidden dimension of subtle energies. They are a good start because they give us a basic experience of the energy body formed by the circulation of refined energy from center throughout the body.
Today we will add a practice to help us achieve a centered experience in the divine dimension of consciousness. The divine dimension is a place of primal emptiness but full of the potential energy that takes form in the hidden and manifest dimensions.
Prof. Cheng in Thirteen Treatises calls this the Heavenly Dimension, the place of perfect clarity. Shankara calls it the Causal Dimension. It is place of total emptiness and freedom in which all possibilities reside.
The Tibetan Book of the Dead calls it the place of Pure Light.
O Sensei’s last calligraphy before his passing was Hikari or Pure Light.
O Sensei describes an experience of the Divine Dimension: Above all, you must find the exact place where the void (shinku no ki) and emptiness (ku no ki) reside. (Page 53 The Secret Teachings of Aikido translated by John Stevens).
The divine dimension practice will come after we work with the manifest and hidden dimension practices of centered experience.
Our Aikido technique will be for today and Thursday 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 tip of the day
Our tip today on the misogi breathing is to experience inner quiet during the pause after both the 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 the practice on katate-dori kokyu nage.
- Get feedback on the technique to establish a baseline to use for comparison as the practice progresses.
The Experience of Center in Manifest, Hidden and Divine
- Let’s begin where we started on in our last on-line class with the rowing exercise (kogi-fune undo). Place particular emphasis on the hips moving first before the hands and arms. The rowing exercise is an ancient Shinto practice from the yamabushi, the mountain ascetics.
O Sensei’s version came from a famous teacher, Bonji Kawatsura, who reputedly learned from a mountain wizard who was 697 years old.
Our goal with the rowing exercise practice today is to focus on the experience of center in the manifest dimension of consciousness.
- Let’s return to the technique to see how this round of the rowing exercise has enhanced our performance of the technique in the manifest dimension.
- The rowing exercise has given us a good basic center from which we can move from the manifest/physical to the hidden dimension of subtle energies. Now let’s work with the chinkon kishin breathing exercises, the Breath of Heaven, Earth and Human as a hidden dimension practice.
Breath of Heaven
Breath of Heaven starts with the hands resting on your legs. Then the hands move in front of your center and up the center line of your body as you inhale. Then the palms turn outward and circle down back to your center with the hands crossed over each other as you exhale.
Visualize the movement of heavenly energy as water circulating throughout your body, emanating from your center and spine.
The goal of the practice is to touch the hidden dimension energy and bring it into your own center.
The practice is described in detail in Aikido the Way of Harmony by John Stevens (pgs. 31-33). It is also illustrated on our Group Facebook Page.
Breath of Earth
Then let’s move on to the Breath of Earth. This produces fire energy as a complement to the water energy of the Breath of Heaven. This practice starts with your hands one on top of the other in front of your center, palms up with the thumbs pointing toward each other.
There is a starting exhalation which focuses on aligning the shoulders and upper body with the hips. Next is an inhalation with the shoulders rising slightly. Then an exhalation with the breath focused on center and the shoulders relaxing.
Visualize the movement of grounded earth energy as fire-water-steam, from the interaction with the water energy of the breath of heaven and the fire energy of the breath of earth circulating from your center and spine throughout your body, connecting you deeply to the earth.
The goal of the practice is to touch the life giving fecundity (O Sensei word) of the earth and bring it into your center.
The practice is described in detail in Aikido the Way of Harmony by John Stevens (pg. 34).
Then let’s move on to the Breath of Human Being.
Breath of Human Being
This practice starts with hands in front of your center palms up with the thumbs pointing toward each other as in the Breath of Earth. Then visualize the energies of heaven and earth coming together in you center. There is no special breathing pattern with this practice.
Visualize the energies of the breath of heaven and the breath of earth giving birth to you as an energy being in an energy dimension of consciousness, through the life-giving steam like energy,-The Heart of Aikido translated by John Stevens (pg. 48 and pg. 103).
Our goal is to experience through your center the fullness of our humanity as the blending of heaven and earth in the hidden dimension.
The practice is described in detail in Aikido the Way of Harmony by John Stevens (pg. 35).
- Let’s return to the technique to see how this chinkon kishin breathing practice has enhanced our performance of the technique in the hidden dimension.
- Using the foundation from the rowing exercise in the manifest and these breathing practices in the hidden let’s move our practice to the divine dimension of consciousness.
Our practice for the divine is a breathing practice from Koichi Tohei Sensei.
He calls it the Breathing Method That Transcends Breathing-Aikido in Daily Life (pgs. 36-37).
The practice starts with a very slow and quiet inhalation through the nose and then focusing your attention on your center. This allows your attention to rest comfortably and gently on your center. From this gentle focus on center move the hands into the same position we use in the Breath of Earth and Breath of Human Being Practice.
This part of the practice is added to Tohei Sensei’s. Visualize the circle formed by your hands as an opening to the divine dimension of great, great quiet. In this place of great, great quiet your divine body is present in a potential form. It is like a silhouette waiting to be filled in. This potential body has the ability to experience itself as a centered divine being in a divine world.
Maintaining the experience of center is crucial at all times but especially in the divine. The divine is a place with few external references. If you reach outside of yourself for external references you push yourself out of the divine realm of consciousness completely.
- Let’s return to the technique to see how this practice of center in the divine dimension has enhanced your performance of the technique.
This series of classes is designed to offer a deeper and multi-dimensional experience of center. The more vibrant, alive and comprehensive the experience of center, the easier it is to maintain center as we go through our regular daily activities. It is especially valuable when we are confronted by difficult or challenging situations. Today we added a practice of center in the divine dimension to our previous practice in the hidden and manifest dimensions.
Feedback and discussion.
Kinoremma A Collection of Photos of Master Tada Hiroshi (pg. 100).
Practice before next class
Add to your practice an experience of the divine dimension from center before a daily life activity and see how it enhances your ability to maintain the experience of center as you go through the task you selected.
Finish with misogi breathing and bowing out.