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. 128).
In our last on-line class we continued our series on a fuller/finer experience of the I/self. We worked to balance and integrate the I and then made a dimensional shift from level 1 to level 2 and then to level 3. We then expanded the practice to experience how a deeper experience of I/self can help us find our place within the creation.
In our last class we focused on the deeper/finer I/self interaction within the creation at a turnaround place in which high level functionality occurs while minimizing the potential for entanglement.
The reduced potential for entanglement results from the creation of a forged identity made up of the clearer I and the creation. The balance and integration of this forged identity allows for functionality from a much greater place of wholeness. Wholeness of identity is a key component in functioning without entanglement.
It also provides a kind of healing for the creation which also benefits from functionality without entanglement. O Sensei provided many fine examples of a supremely high level of functionality without entanglement-A Life in Aikido by Kisshomaru Ueshbia (pgs. 258-260).
Today we will continue this focus specifically on the co-creative function of the I/self with additional practice in the forging of the I with the creation without creating new entanglement. O Sensei’s name for this is takemusu. To designate this experience we will use the phrase turnaround place.
This is a phrase developed by Nadeau Sensei. A turnaround place is one where we have disentangled and backtracked from our starting place to a position from which we can turn around and face the creation. From this turnaround place we can forge a balanced and integrated identity that interacts with the creation in a way that minimizes new entanglement.
In our previous classes we asked questions about what we could do to enhance our relationship with the creation.
In today’s class we will work to forge this takemusu identity with the creation, in a healthy way that reduces the potential for entanglement.
The forging of the takemusu identity is a crucial part of practice because once we achieve a level of balance and integration of the I, the experience is so pleasurable we could stop our practice there. This results in a lack of harmony at this level with the creation. It can also make it difficult to retain the balanced and integrated I.
Defining I/self can be a difficult task. We will rely more on experiential practices than definitions in words.
However, a very basic outline may help us to get started.
O Sensei talked about the consciousness we call self as being present even before the dawn of creation.
By this he meant two very important things that will help us to focus our practice.
First, consciousness at this most original level played an instrumental role in the birth of creation itself.
O Sensei said the energies of creation, coming from spirit, that formed the creation, flowed through the consciousness we call the self at the very beginning of creation. Consciousness was present even before the creation and was a co-creative partner in the birth of creation.
Second, since consciousness was present prior to the creation, it is not a part of the creation or the function of creation but is an experiential partner to creation. At its most original level, self is a mirror that provides clarity and order to creation precisely because it is not entangled in the creation itself.
We worked with this to some degree in our most recent series of classes with the experience of the Pure Witness.
When you experience the beauty and harmony of the balanced energies of creation this experience provides a clearer opportunity for I/self to shine through.
It is however important to recognize that when you feel the balance and harmony of creation you are not experiencing the self but a beautiful experience of the creation.
The I/self functions as a witness or experiential partner to creation at this most original level of creation.
Our more normal experience of I/self, which we call I, provides a consistent sense of personal identity.
This is true in both the ordinary and extraordinary experiences in our daily lives, regardless of the level or aspect of the creation with which we are interacting.
This is how we use the experience of I in our forging practice.
The I/self is the part of our system, at a basic level, that provides a qualitative experience of satisfaction and meaning to our activities. It is the source of our perspective on our lives and our world in both an immediate and overall sense.
The health of the I is a big factor in how well we forge with the units that are important to us both in the sense of personal satisfaction and wellbeing and in our functional performance.
The overall goal of this series of classes is to experience progressively finer/fuller dimensional levels of I/self.
O Sensei and most other spiritual traditions teach that the I in our ordinary frame of reference becomes entangled with the creation preventing us from experiencing the I/self in its deeper, finer levels.
He said starting at the dawn of creation and then as the creation unfolded, we became increasingly entangled. This entanglement interferes with our ability to more fully experience I/self and also interferes with the functioning of creation itself.
We have all experienced versions of this in our daily lives. One example is when attempting a difficult or challenging task the harder we try the less able we are to complete the task.
In some cases we may be so upset over our inability to function at the level we desire that frustration and anger boils over and we say “I don’t know who I am.”
Our plan for this series is first to practice disentanglement between the I and the creation.
This process will allow us to backtrack from an entangled state to a state closer to the experience of I/self at the most original level before entanglement first occurred.
There are two fundamental experiences of the I/self according to O Sensei and many other spiritual traditions. One is the I/self within the creation. The second is the most original experience of the I/self outside the creation.
Today our focus continues to be on the co-creative relationship between the I/self and the creation that minimizes entanglement.
We will continue to use the technique, katate-dori kokyu nage to represent a portion of the creation to help us experience the takemusu identity-the disentangled state.
The changes will be influenced by the level of I/self you are experiencing as well as the features of the technique and the uke.
It is important to recognize that your level of experience of I/self is a part of the co-creative process.
The creation in its manifestation, in this case as an Aikido technique, is also a partner in the co-creative process. The creation gets a vote as well as the I/self.
We can also continue an additional practice we added in our previous series. On a purely voluntary basis, select a call-off with which you would like to work throughout this series.
This will help to make the practices in each class more personal and well connected.
It is an opportunity to practice dimensionality with something of specific significance to you over a series of classes and in a longer timeframe.
Let’s bow in and start with misogi breathing and a good full warm-up.
Five Principles for Ki Breathing
Our tip today on the misogi breathing is
As you go through the three rounds allow the exhalations, inhalations and pauses to come together into a breathing identity.
- 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 toe
- 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.
Forging an Identity With the Creation
- Let’s begin with a round of practice with the technique. Begin with the practice of katate-dori kokyu nage. For our practice today let’s continue to frame the uke’s role not as an attacker but as a portion of the creation. As you go through this first round of practice ask yourself what is my experience of interaction with the uke?
- Get feedback on the technique to establish a baseline to use for comparison as the practice progresses.
- Let’s continue with a basic practice of clearing and settling. This is how we begin our forging practice. Here we will spend a little more time and attention by working through several levels of clearing.
It is a simple process of relaxing and settling.
Feeling the back, the under half of the body and then deeper.
Let’s go through three cycles of clearing to experience clearing at a deeper level.
What is your experience of this deeper level of clearing?
From this deeper level of clearing let’s work with the two parts of the I/self. We work with the I/self having two parts in our forging practice.
One part is more awareness oriented and the other is more experientially oriented.
Our shorthand for these are the mind of I (awareness/thinking) and the body of I (feeling/experience).
Our goal, initially, is to experience these parts of the I and their interaction with each other. It is in this interaction that an initial opportunity for growth and development of the I/self exists.
When there is a lack of connection or even conflict between the parts of the I we are starting from a place of fragmentation rather than wholeness.
If this lack of integration is not acknowledged and worked with, we will experience the downstream effects of the fragmentation in reduced satisfaction and performance. It will also make it difficult to progress to dimensionally finer experiences of I/self.
One way this happens is that part of the I ranges out and tries to obtain satisfaction from outside itself.
An example is when the mind of I tries to direct the unit, it results in maintaining the fragmentation of the I within itself and also interferes with the unit’s ability to perform. From O Sensei’s perspective, this tendency toward entanglement and its downstream results is a key part of the difficulty of the human condition.
Bringing the two parts of the I into a more balanced and integrated experience with each other is a big step toward reducing entanglement and its resulting negative effects. It is also an important first step in experiencing dimensionally finer levels of I/self.
Our practice starts by allowing each part of the I an opportunity to experience itself.
In some cases this may take some time as one or both parts may need to balance and integrate within themselves before they can interact with their counterpart other half.
Let’s now move to a practice of interaction between the two parts of the I.
Starting with the mind of I, let’s use the practice from our forging classes. The mind of I has the capacity to mirror. Often this mirroring capability is turned outward toward the outside world. Here we will turn it inward.
As the mind of the I, allow a mirrored image of the body of I-the more feeling/experiential part of the I-to form in you the mind of I.
What is the experience of this mirrored image?
Then switching perspectives move to the body of I. Allow yourself a moment to change perspectives.
Before we continue with the mirroring practice, what is the difference in your experience between the mind of I and now the body of I?
From here the body of I mirrors the mind of I. The body of I may take a different approach to mirroring than the mind of I does. It may not even be visual.
What is the experience of this mirrored image?
We now have the two parts of the I mirroring each other. What is your experience? What is their relationship with each other in this mirroring process?
Is there a greater overall experience of wholeness as I? Focusing on the co-creative capability of the I, as we go through the technique, pay careful attention to the change in the technique as well as your personal experience.
The change in the technique provides the concrete result of the co-creative interaction that comes from the I.
Let’s go back to the technique to experience it as the more whole co-creative I.
As you go through this second round of practice ask yourself what is the takemusu experience? What is your experience of the takemusu experience as you do the technique?
Here we will use another practice from our forging process, the interaction of fire/water/steam. In this version of the fire/water steam process we have the clearer more integrated I interacting with the part of the creation represented by the katate-dori kokyu nage technique and the uke. Our goal is to create an identity as the forged one of the technique we are doing.
- What is your experience of the technique after this forging practice? How is it different than the first round?
- Let’s now move to a deeper level of experience of I/self.
We can use the circle/center practice to get started. Open a circle of the next level of I/self and the next level of center I/self.
Our question-what is the circle and the center of the next level of I/self?
We can use O Sensei’s principle of the mountain echo to allow the experience of the space to present itself.
Then let’s repeat the mirroring and integration practice with the I we just did, but now at level 2.
How is your experience different than level 1?
Again focusing on the co-creative capability of the I, as you go through the technique, pay careful attention to the growth in your co-creative relationship with the creation.
The change in the technique provides the concrete experience of the co-creative interaction that comes from the I.
Let’s go back to the technique to experience it as the more whole co-creative level two I. As you go through this third round of practice ask yourself what is the takemusu experience? What is your experience of the takemusu experience as you do the technique?
Here we will continue to use the practice from our forging process, the interaction of fire/water/steam.
In this version of the fire/water steam process we have the clearer more integrated level two I interacting with the part of the creation represented by the katate-dori kokyu nage technique and the uke. Our goal is to create an identity as the forged one of the technique we are doing but at level two.
- What is your experience of the technique after this forging practice? How is it different than the second round?
- Let’s now move to level 3 of I/self. Let’s work with a quieting practice we have used in previous classes.
Our practice is a breathing exercise 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 position in front of your center with the left hand on top of the right, thumbs pointing toward each other.
This part of the practice is added to Tohei Sensei’s.
Visualize the circle formed by your hands as an opening to a place of great, great quiet. It is an opening like a tunnel or a portal to a quiet place where we can ask the question what is the experience of the next level of I/self?
We can continue to use O Sensei’s principle of the mountain echo to allow the experience of the next level of I/self to present itself.
Then let’s repeat the mirroring and integration practice with the I, but now at level 3.
How is your experience different than level 2?
Again, we are focusing on the co-creative capability of the level three I, as we go through the technique to experience functionality with minimal entanglement. Pay careful attention to the change in the technique as well as your personal experience.
The change in the technique provides the concrete result of the co-creative interaction that comes from the level three I.
Let’s go back to the technique to experience it as the more whole co-creative level three I.
As you go through this fourth round of practice ask yourself what is the takemusu experience? What is your experience of the takemusu experience as you do the technique? Here we continue with the practice from our forging process, the interaction of fire/water/steam. In this version of the fire/water steam process we have the clearer more integrated level three I interacting with the part of the creation represented by the katate-dori kokyu nage technique and the uke. Our goal is to create an identity at level three as the forged one of the technique we are doing.
- What is your experience of the technique after this forging practice? How is different than the third round?
In this class we continued our series to experience finer/fuller levels of I/self. We started with some fundamental practices from our forging process.
Then we worked with a more refined level of I/self going from level 1 to level 2 to level 3.
At each level of I we went back to the technique to experience how each progressively deeper level of I resulted in a co-creative interaction to experience the forged identity of the technique. The takemusu moment is an experience of enhanced functionality with reduced potential for new entanglements being formed.-The Secret Teachings of Aikido translated by John Stevens (pg. 129).
Feedback and Discussion
Practice before next class:
Select a daily life activity and take a moment to pause and allow the experience of I/self to connect with the task as a takemusu moment, forging an identity of the I and the task you want to complete. See how this co-creative integration may provide you a fuller, less entangled experience of the task.
You may also take a moment to experience any dimensional shifts in the area you selected as your call-off for this entire series of classes.
Finish with misogi breathing and bowing out.