The Paradox of One And Many in Aikido PhilosophyWritten by Charlie Badenhop
Read about how we can better appreciate, empathize with, and respect diverse people, energies, and opinions that we come in contact with on a daily basis.
My Aikido teacher Koichi Tohei sensei used to say that in a healthy person flow of their "ki" (the energy inherent throughout Universe) is like outpouring of an underground spring sitting at bottom of a deep lake. The spring feeds water to lake, much like we can feed universe healing energy. The spring feeds lake a constant flow of water without ever being diminished, and this outpouring of water is not impeded by weight and pressure of lake bearing down upon it. When ki flows it follows path of least resistance. This is a path of great power. As human beings we are designed to feed energy to universe, by following a path of least resistance. This feeding of "our" energy is what helps us to also maintain our own personal health and well being. We receive by giving, because our ki belongs to Universe, and not to any one individual.
In this article I want to talk about how we can better appreciate, empathize with, and respect diverse people, energies, and opinions that we come in contact with on a daily basis. I hope to give some small insight into how we can begin to understand paradox of One common energy source feeding all of diversity and difference that we see around us. In Aikido we practice what I guess could be called a "physical" discipline to accomplish this. We PRACTICE appreciation, empathy, and respect, in regard to our partner, with hope that some day in future our practice will transform into an embodied reality. We practice breathing exercises and meditation, and in course of these experiences we have a sense of being one with universe.
In Aikido, as new students we first learn how to balance our physical structure and relax body's musculature. It is this balance and release of excess muscular tension that allows weight of body's trunk to come to a natural resting place in our lower abdomen, in general area of our reproductive organs. This area in our lower abdomen is what Tohei sensei calls "the one point" and he exhorts his students to maintain feeling of body's weight resting naturally in this area. By maintaining physical balance and relaxation we release excess physical tension, calm thinking mind, and sense a common bond with all of life. At such times we naturally generate a copious flow of ki, and exude a healing presence to those around us. Previously I said that ki is life force that animates all living beings and that all living beings share and utilize SAME energy source, same ki, same spirit. In Aikido we call this shared universal spirit "reiseishin." When we balance and relax body, unify our thoughts and actions, and calm our thinking mind, we manifest an outpouring of "Reseishin" in same manner that a mother holding her newborn baby exudes and expresses love, protection, and compassion. When we experience flow of "reiseishin" we naturally appreciate, empathize with, and respect all of life.
For me personally, what is important to say in regard to sensing flow of "reiseishin" is that experience is not generated by activity of thinking mind. Our sense of unity with all of life comes about when we "do only what is necessary, and nothing more or less." It is this "doing less" that leads to greater power and a greater sense of connection to life. We gain paradoxical experience of calmness and action being two sides of same coin. One being mirror image of other. Great calmness leads to great action, like a hurricane radiating out from its calm "eye." Great action leads to great calmness, as when a strongly thrown top rights itself and calmly spins round its center.
When you balance and relax your body, unify your thoughts and actions, and calm your thinking mind, you move from an experience of duality to an experience of commonality. At such times you understand experientially what is paradoxical to thinking mind - That so much difference comes from One source.
You breathe deeply and sense simultaneous inflow and outflow of ki. You breathe deeply and feel a "heavy-lightness" in body. You breathe deeply and sense "immovable-movement" of your spirit.
When you sense and move with energy that is manifesting throughout universe you find that you have a greater ability to live a life that is healthy and fulfilling, a greater sense of valuing and protecting all of life. When you learn to instinctively move with others rather than attempting to oppose them, you quickly come to a sense of intuitively understanding your counterpart's thoughts and actions, and you increase likelihood of your being able to gently lead your counterpart in new directions in future. This is certainly a timely topic given current conditions in world today. Aikido is a martial art that wages peace. We have no attack form in Aikido, even though Aikido is very much an effective form of self-defense. As I said previously, in Aikido we cultivate an experience that leads us to believe that all living beings utilize and share a common energy source (ki) that helps to run and maintain our environment as well as our individual human systems. We believe that since we all share a common energy source, that in some important way we are all truly members of same family, and that we share our lives with all of nature. We do not have an attack form in Aikido, because attacking another human being would be like attacking a family member that you love. One of main ideas of Aikido is to find a way to honor and protect your own being, your own opinions, your own right to life, while CONCURRENTLY honoring and protecting same in your opponent. Not at all a simple task, but one well worth trying to embody.
Mushin - Peak Performance States in Aikido PhilosophyWritten by Charlie Badenhop
In Aikido we learn how to enter into a peak performance state that in Japanese arts is known as "mushin." In Seishindo work we often call "mushin" a state of "embodied presence." "Mushin" is similar to term "flow state" as used by many people to describe conditions for peak performance. For several years now I have been defining "embodied presence/mushin" in following manner: "When structure of your body is balanced, and your thinking mind is fully present but not engaged in any form of internal dialogue, you will tend to release any extraneous thoughts or actions and enter into flow state of "mushin." Your thoughts, feelings, and actions occur simultaneously and spontaneously. Nothing comes between your thoughts and your actions, and nothing is left over. When we embody such a state we greatly improve our ability to learn with grace and ease."
At such times we have a pleasing sense of fullness and great potential. We do not attempt to eliminate or control our thoughts, feelings, or actions, but rather we move with our thoughts, and feel into our experience. Breath, movement, action, and rest. Breath, movement, action, and rest. So when I say above that I want to talk about peak performance states and how we can live our lives with a greater sense of ease, grace, and power, I am referring to how to enter into a special learning state where our thoughts, actions, and feelings occur simultaneously and spontaneously.
This state of "mushin" is one that we very much strive to experience in Aikido (and in other Japanese arts as well) knowing full well that it is not a state that we will maintain throughout course of our everyday life. Indeed, what we do when we find we are NOT in a state of embodied presence and instead mired in a difficult situation, tells us much about our spirit and our deeply held beliefs. Mushin is an ephemeral state that is to be experienced and released. An experience that is meant to be lost and found a gain, many times over in course of our life. Please be certain that I consider peak performance states to be an enjoyable quest and not just for some special few who are professional performers of one sort or another.
When we enter into mushin for even brief periods of time we find that we receive what I call "a residue experience." By this I mean that even when we enter back into our everyday mind, we find ourself living our life with a greater sense of vitality and well being. Our relationships with others tend to be more heartfelt, compassionate, and aware. We find ourselves feeling more connected to our "self" and our everyday experience, while living our life with a greater sense of meaning.
If you are at all like most of human beings I meet every day, and one that I meet in mirror every morning, during much of your life your thoughts, actions, and feelings occur somewhat independently of each other, and you lack a certain sense of spontaneity. To some extent this is part of human condition, and yet we can definitely also achieve from time to time, a much fuller way of learning and living.
One of unique aspects of embodied presence is that we do not have internal dialogue when we are fully present in moment. By "fully present in moment" I mean remaining relaxed while fully engaging in an activity, without internal dialogue taking up any of our attention or awareness.
Mushin = Embodied presence Embodied presence = Fully present in moment Fully present in moment = Michael Jordan during an NBA final; Tiger Woods at Masters; My daughter watching her Saturday morning kids program.
I think that being able to be free from internal dialogue at times is quite an interesting phenomenon. One of main questions I always ponder in this regard is "Who is talking to who?" during internal dialogue. Another thought that I often have is "Why in world do I need to tell myself what I am feeling? Why not just feel?" And of course asking myself such questions is just another form of internal dialogue!
To me, fact that we have internal dialogue in first place leads me to understand that each person has at least two different selves that they experience life through. One self is a rational/cognitive self with its "headquarters" being just that, in head. This is self that generates our internal dialogue and likes to critique what we are doing. Our other self is an emotional/somatic self with its command center being in body. This appears to be self that cognitive self is trying to inform via words. The problem is that somatic self thinks in feelings and not in words, so really only thing it understands from verbal communication of cognitive self is tone of voice, volume, and phrasing. Seem hard to believe?