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. 39).
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.
In our last class we focused on the deeper/finer I/self interaction within the creation at a turnaround place in which there is high level functionality 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 conclude this series of classes with a focus on the wholeness of an identity that is self-referenced. This means that the identity can provide its own reference as to who it is. It does need to refer to the creation in order to have an experience of its own wholeness. As long as the identity-the I/self-requires interaction with the creation there is a lack of wholeness within the identity’s experience of itself and the likelihood of entanglement with the creation.
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 an identity that is self-referencing which produces wholeness and the healthiest possible relationship to the creation.
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 will be on the experience of a self-referenced identity. The self-referenced identity is a major movement toward the most original self present even before the dawn of creation.
We will use the technique, mune-tsuki irimi nage to help us experience the self-referenced identity.
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 with the exhalations, inhalations and pauses, work to experience a wholeness that is stable throughout all three parts of the practice.
- 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.
Wholeness in a Self-Referenced Identity
- Let’s begin with a round of practice with the technique mune-tsuki irimi nage. For our practice today let’s frame the uke’s role not as an attacker but as an integral part of your identity. As you go through this first round of practice ask yourself what is my experience of interaction with the uke who is a part of myself?
- 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 in the creation. 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 self-referenced experience 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 benefits of the self-referenced I/self.
Let’s go back to the technique to experience it as the self-referenced I/self.
As you go through this second round of practice ask yourself what is the self-referenced experience?
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 two parts of the I interacting with each other which includes the mune-tsuki irimi nage technique and the uke. Our goal is to create an identity that is self-referenced without regard to outward experience or performance.
- 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 the self-referenced 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 self-referencing I/self, let’s go back to the technique.
The change in the technique experience provides the concrete experience of the benefits of the self-referenced I/self.
Let’s go back to the technique to experience it as the self-referenced level two I/self.
Here we will again 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 two parts of the I interacting with each other which includes the mune-tsuki irimi nage technique and the uke. Our goal is to create an identity that is self-referenced without regard to outward experience or performance.
- 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 the self-referenced 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 the self-referenced I/self?
We can continue to use O Sensei’s principle of the mountain echo to allow the experience of the next level of the self-referenced 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 self-referenced experience of the level three I. Pay careful attention to the change in the technique as well as your personal experience.
The change in the technique experience shows the benefits of the self-referenced I/self.
As you go through this fourth round of practice ask yourself what is the experience of the self-referenced I/self?
Here we continue the practice of the interaction of fire/water/steam. In this version of the fire/water steam process we have the two parts of the I interacting with each other which includes the mune-tsuki irimi nage technique and the uke. Our goal is to create an identity that is self-referenced without regard to outward experience or performance.
- What is your experience of the technique after this forging practice? How is different than the third round?
In this class we completed this series focused on the experience of 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.
We concluded this series with a practice of experiencing the self-referenced I/self-The Secret Teachings of Aikido translated by John Stevens (pgs. 88-89).
Feedback and Discussion
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.