Reflections from a recent moment when I couldn’t discern the difference between running away from something, and running towards something else. It felt like death either way I chose to go…which was the point.

What am I running away from?
Or am I running towards?
Outside they look the same.
Inside it feels like life and death.
Am I looking back, regretful of choosing that which I am not?
Or am I looking forward, needing to become that which I am?
In either case, there is death.
Death of who we truly are.
Or death of who we were never meant to become.
It is death either way.
Choose which death you wish to live.
Death of that which you are.
Or death of that which you’ve become.

It has been almost two years since my last post – and for good reason.  There are years to learn and absorb, and years to share and express. The past two years have been about learning and growing. And over the past few weeks and months, the need to start to write and share has reemerged . 

Therefore, it is with some irony that the first post after such an extended pause is a reposting of work I read recently that I believe warrants broader sharing. Courtesy of Eri Izawa, (, the subtlety entitled “Aikido Principles Transposed Up Into the Realm of Spirit” is an insightful read for any aikidoka, or those who are familiar with the works and teachings of Tohei Sensei.

Enjoy – Dan

Aikido Principles Transposed Up Into the Realm of Spirit

C. S. Lewis wrote of transposition, of how complex systems can be “pared down” when brought down to lower systems. Here’s my understanding: As an example, a three dimensional cube can be drawn in two dimensions, or be represented as a square, but it loses something in the process. A symphony can be reduced to a single instrument’s piece, but it loses something in the process. The two very different feelings of fear and romantic love can both be described in physical terms of pounding heart, faster breathing, and so on to the point where they look the same at the physiological level. In fact, a study has shown that men on a precarious bridge are more likely to find a woman they meet there attractive … because their mind mistakes their physiological symptoms of fear for symptoms of romance!

And so it is that the spiritual can be described on the mental and physical planes, but it loses something in the translation. In other words, if the spiritual is the “highest” realm, then bringing/translating spiritual principles down into lower realms like mental, physical, and (dare I say it) the psychic will result in mental, physical, and psychic principles that are like simplified reflections of the original. Conversely, if we find a reliable/demonstratable mental/physical/psychic principle, it would seem to have a higher spiritual counterpart. (Note also the projection of one higher dimensional item onto a lower dimension can have multiple different appearances in the lower dimension, when in fact they are all the same item viewed differently.)
Aikido is a lot about unifying body, mind, and spirit, but it usually deals with them on the mental and physical “plane.” In other words, it’s about how to establish spiritual things like peace and harmony within the framework of the physical world — like how to physically stop an attacker coming at you with a sword in a way that keeps both of you from getting hurt. Aikido winds up drawing from the spiritual and mental levels, but at first glance, it looks like the whole point is to establish peace in the physical world.

In this page, I try to list aikido principles and lift them to the spiritual plane (well, the spiritual plane according to my current understanding of it), where the things that matter are not based on time or space, but are based on attitude, intention, and thoughts. In other words, I’ll (try to) translate the physical and mental aspects of aikido into their spiritual equivalents.
(I realize that aikido was really meant to apply to all levels of life, including spiritual, but out on the practice mat, this is not necessarily obvious. So, when I concentrate on the mental/physical aspects of aikido and see what they mean in terms of higher spiritual principles, let me not neglect to add that many of these higher spiritual principles are already present in aikido philosophy!)

(Terminology/Source Note: The “spiritual” terminology is monotheistic, though substituting “Universe” or “the Tao” for “God” will make it understandable to a more Taoist-oriented aikidoka. The aikido terminology is based on the Ki Society’s vocabulary. What few aikido principles I’ve learned I owe to instructors and students at the Virginia Ki Society, especially from 1993. I have personally experienced most of these principles in that dojo, at all known levels/planes of being — including the spiritual level.)

The Four Principles Translated

  • “Keep One Point.” Keep your attention focused on a single spatial point; the smaller and closer to a mathematical zero-dimensional point, the better. This improves one’s balance and stability immensely.

Keep your attention and focus on God. The more you focus on the point of perfection of God, the stronger you become spiritually.

  • Extend Ki. This means to be alert, compassionate, and to be a source of energy.

Have the right spiritual attitude, and all else falls into place. You become a source of spiritual understanding and light to others.

  • “Keep weight underside.” Let the body relax as if all your flesh were liquid. Let the weight all settle down at the lowest points possible, and you will be much more stable and your movements far more effective. When the brain stops trying to control the body’s individual parts, and when the flesh obeys the laws of physics and is now relaxed and no longer divided into tense divided sections … the result is a unified whole that has amazing results in the physical world.

Let things go to where they are ideally supposed to go. Have the spirit listen to God and stop trying to run a fractured life purely on its own wisdom. A spirit at rest (relaxed and faithful) in God’s Spirit will have spectacular results in the spiritual world.

  • Relax completely. Relax vibrantly, such that you are filled with energy but yet have no tense muscles. Relaxed yet alert attitude and mind, and relaxed yet alert body. Relaxation allows energy to flow freely through the body.

Have no fear. Do not fret. Do not worry. Do not be anxious. Don’t let your mind or body overrule your spirit, and don’t let your spirit overrule the Spirit of God. Let your spirit be calm and peaceful and alert to God’s will, and this will allow God to act through your spirit. (An oft-used analogy is the stillness of a pond’s surface as it reflects the moon; a choppy pond cannot reflect the moon well.)

During an Attack

The foundation of the self-defense aspect of aikido is the act of redirecting the attacker’s energy, rendering it harmless or even beneficial.

Turn the negative situation into a positive one, a curse into a blessing.

For every attacking energy, there is a way to redirect it.

God opens a path for us, even if the outcome isn’t what we expected or wanted.

When presented with an attack, say “Thank you,” with a genuine smile as you neutralize the attack. This gives the aikidoka a real “boost” in effectiveness.

When presented with what looks like a problem or a negative situation, keep a positive attitude and say “Thank you” to both God and the cause of the problem. (Thankfulness is also said to be a trait of spiritually advanced people.)

Put yourself in your opponent’s place, sometimes by physically moving closer to him so that you can better lead him.

Seek first to understand. Love your enemy. And know your enemy. If you do this, you can see how to help him (with God’s help), and you can often bring him spiritual peace before he can slide further down into anger or hate.

If you use your muscles, the opponent will resist and it becomes a strength contest. You must lead with Ki (mental attention, mental direction, and energy).

If you try to force someone to do something, the person will resist and it becomes a battle of wills. You must lead with your spirit — better yet, the Spirit of God. God does not force.

Don’t think of the other as Someone Else. Think of both of you as “us.” It is easier to “lead us” than it is to “move you.”

Realize that you are connected to the other, and that what you do will affect both of you. See others as part of a whole. Seek the path that leads BOTH of you to a good outcome, rather than trying to just force an outcome upon the other. Once you have everyone’s best interests truly in mind, try to convey in your thoughts and actions that genuine desire to help all parties involved, and things will tend to roll along more smoothly. Moreover, compassion for others is God’s way, so you also get God’s help. Another component of this is: learn to make God’s will your will. Unify with the Universe; be one.

Move out of the way of an attack. If a sword is headed your way, move out of the way (even if it means stepping toward the attacker). If a Mack truck heads your way, move aside.

Avoid negativity and the influence of evil when it comes your way; instead, move to a safer place (mentally, emotionally, and spiritually) and work from there. Even spiritual principles cannot always avert an occurrence that is simply unavoidable, so instead avoid the negative effects upon your own attitude.

If you become a very good aikidoka, you often simply “see” the right thing to do.

As you grow closer to God, you will likely be inspired to do the right things, as surprising as they might be.

Move with confidence, joy, and even enthusiasm. Confident movement helps ensure good energy, leadership, and good results; joy and enthusiasm can break us out of difficult holds, free us from oppression, and yield surprising results.

Have deep and loving faith in God, have the belief that God will see you through any and all difficulties, have the joy and enthusiasm that is God’s nature, and you will move through your difficulty.

More Aikido Principles
The way to learn aikido is to practice with a good teacher and many other students, and to keep at it. It is something one can keep improving all one’s life.

The way to progress spiritually is to learn from God and God’s other children, who share our world with us… and to keep trying, observing, getting up after falling down….

If you lean on something (or someone else), you must still maintain your own center (balance), or else you (and in the case of someone, the other person as well) are unstable and can be pushed over.

If, in your life, you lean on something (like a pastime/hobby) or someone else (like a spouse or a friend) for support, make sure you are centered in God and that the thing or person you are leaning on is also stable (and centered in God), or else you are in a precarious position that could bring down not just yourself, but others as well, and vice versa (that which you are leaning on could fall and take you down, too).

Move from the center of your power. In the physical world, this means the first part of your body to move should be the center of mass, which should be roughly within your hips if you are physically relaxed and have “weight underside.” Hips move, and all else follows.

Move from the center of all power: that is, God. Move in the Spirit, with divine intentions and attitudes.

Unify mind and body. Mind sets the tone; the body responds. Energy links all the parts together: even the pinky finger can be used to defeat an attacker if mind and body are acting as a cohesive, unified whole. Together they can do amazing things.

Unify spirituality with all aspects of your life: mind, body, actions, thoughts. With this unification, you can move mountains! (Unify all aspects of your life with God: bring God’s compassion and courage to the workplace, home, commute, and hobbies, and watch the parts merge together into a glorious whole that sustains life far more powerfully than any one part by itself.) Note: a community that is unified like this is also extremely effective, and even a small child can effect a great deal of positive change.

Move from what is free. If only your pinky finger is free, let it lead the rest of you (through unification) to freedom.

Like the Buckminster Fuller quote about the tiny trimtab (which changes the course of a ship), in society and life and in spirit, that part of us which is truly free can bring the rest of us to freedom – if we are willing to let “a little child” lead us.

As your focus shrinks, your awareness grows.

As your mind focusses on God and the point of perfection, your awareness and compassion for others grows out into infinity. (Side effect(?) of doing both is that space (and possibly time) ceases to be meaningful or binding.)

Keep your mind on your destination and move toward it, and you will move right through your obstacles. If there is someone trying to block your way, keep your eyes on a point beyond him, think only of that destination, and you’ll move right through him.

Keep your mind on God and move toward God (or your inspired destination), and you will move right through your obstacles.

Lead your body with your mind. If you cut something with your mind first, it makes it tremendously easier for your hand or a sword to cut through that space right afterward.

Lead the mind with your spirit; lead your spirit with God’s Spirit. If you go where God leads, you will find it easy to go through even “impossible” situations.

What the mind envisions determines success. If you envision energy flowing through your arm and out your fingertips, your arm behaves as if there is energy within it, strenthening it. If you envision a break in the flow, your arm is correspondingly weakened. If you envision it whole again, your arm is strengthened once more.

If you envision and dream something first, it will tend to become reality. If you envision and dream it with the Spirit’s inspiration, it will become reality.

Don’t hoard energy; if you relax vibrantly, you are automatically refilled with energy. Someone who depends on the energy within himself will quickly run dry and pass out in times of great stress.

A correct mental attitude and attunement to God will automatically bring you the strength to accomplish “difficult” tasks. Rather than depend on your own limited wisdom and power, turn to God’s limitless wisdom and power.

Move with and within the energy; do not try to control the energy. This makes a person invincible.

Move within God’s will; don’t try to control God. This makes the impossible possible.

(Same as pinky finger example.) If you are caught in a grip, move that which is outside of the other’s control, and you can move yourself.

If you are “trapped,” you will still have at least some part of you that is yours to control, even if it just your soul, and that will move you.

If you are moving forward against an opposing force that seems unyielding, move your body or just your mind and you can then move through the obstacle.

If you are stuck in a rut and everything is frozen in place, change something internally, within your thoughts and attitudes, and then move forward again. Something within you must change if you want to get anywhere.

In a contest of aikidoka stability, he who presents any stiffness/rigidity is the first to fall, because the stiffness closes off part of the body from the stability of the body’s center as well as offering a rigid, manipulatable “weak point” to the attacker.

In a situation of struggle, always stay relaxed, faithful, confident, and open to God’s spirit in all parts of your life. Don’t shut out Spirit from any one area, or else you will be weak there and an attacker will swoop upon the flaw.

If you look upon others with compassion, you strengthen both that person and yourself.

To bless others brings blessings upon yourself

When you hold a sword or jo, hold it lightly, as a baby grips an adult’s finger. Do not grip it hard with strength. Extend ki through it, and it will spring back into place when hit, rather than being pushed out of line. Say, “This is mine” with confidence. But, conversely, be willing to let go if the situation demands it.

Don’t hold onto things in your life with greed and fear. Calmly claim what is yours, and extend God’s peace onto them from your own peaceful center. Then they are less likely to be used against you. But sometimes you must let go if the situation changes.

Imagine yourself floating and detached from the ground while maintaining One Point and Weight Underside, and you will become more stable.

Detach from the pseudo-supports around you, keep your will aligned with God’s, and you will become stronger.

Shake out your body vigorously, and let the shaking decrease by half, then by half again, then by half, half-half-half-half, until you are still vibrating but so fast and imperceptibly that you are perfectly still – and you will be both relaxed and stable.

Like a spinning gyroscope, vibrancy, movement, and motion ironically give us more stability. Many spiritual people report that higher vibrations lead upward to God. Musician Andreason reports that “God, the Creator, vibrates at an absolute level that is so fast that He is perfectly still.” So, as high vibration brings stability to the body, so it does to the mind.

Extend Ki (energy and attention) in a particular direction, and you will become stronger against any attacks from that direction; hence, extend Ki in a sphere around yoursef to be strong against attacks from any direction.

Extend spiritual principles and the love of God into all aspects of your life, and your life will become that much richer and more effective and immune to defeat. (This rule is already deeply imbedded in aikido philosophy.)

With most casual test pushes, one can redirect the energy into the ground without outwardly moving.

Most little problems in life can be easily neutralized by simply maintaining one’s centeredness on God.

The more complex or bigger the attack or test, the more one will have to move physically to handle the attack — but all the while maintaining balance and centeredness.

With some events, one might have to shift one’s thoughts and attitudes somewhat in order to remain centered in God. With bigger, more complex issues, one might have to take extensive action, yet all the while remain centered in God.

With some attacks, it is best to let the other “steal” or “draw out” your energy rather than fight it; you just need to let a flow occur and replenish yourself by being relaxed and allowing energy in from outside.

Sometimes it is best to let others take from you what they need/want, but you must replenish yourself from God’s bounty.

If you let in a particular energy, its source tends to stick to you. If you let in energy from another’s hand into your body, the other has an easier time keeping his hand connected to your body.

If you allow a thought in, its source will gain some power over you (can be good or bad, depending on whether the source is bad, confused, or Divine).

If you keep out energy, its source tends to slide off of you. If you keep out energy from another’s hand, that person finds his hand keeps slipping off your body.

If you keep thoughts out, their source will lose their influence over you (can be good or bad, depending on the source).

If someone has you pinned against a wall, imagine it reflecting back; allow their energy to bounce back to them and push them off you.

Negative energy can be put to positive use; in fact, there’s no reason not to shape its flow so that it minimizes hurt and maximizes freedom and goodness.

Warning: it is harder to handle a soft, ki-based attack. Much training is required to withstand an attack like this.

It is more difficult to stand one’s ground in the face of heart-felt, sincere spirit than an offensive that is hard and pushy and closed off. If you are being attacked by something so sincere, then it will require serious training to remain centered in the face of it.

Aikido is the way of love and harmony. It is better to defuse a tense situation and avoid combat than to enter combat and win.

True spirituality is the way of love. It is better to help those in need by way of Spirit than it is to rely on our own wisdom, which may make things worse.

Those who seek to attack others have already lost. They go against the will of the Universe. (OK, I’ve never experienced this myself, but advanced aikidoka say that an attacker always has an opening or weakness, while someone aligned with the will of the Universe/God has no openings or weaknesses.)

God does not want us to be selfish and hurtful. The spiritual laws are set up so that we eventually learn that selfishness and hate weaken us. Those who live by God’s will, those who are devoted to selflessness, compassion, and faith, are strengthened and made invulnerable in the long run. The closer to perfect love we grow, the closer to perfect we are.

Ki Aikido demonstration of the effects of blessing vs. cursing

Harry Eto Sensei’s Lesson

Terry Dobson’s Aikido story

(Lastly: I had wanted to get George Simcox Sensei’s comments on this page, since I learned so much of this from him. I never got a complete set of comments because of his sudden passing. However, in August of 2000, a time of great trial for him, he took the time to email me after reading part of this page, in which he included the phrase “Good work!” — so I have hope that I am at the very least a bit on the right track (for I believe that George was quite a bit on the right track :). He said he had some comments on the Weight Underside section that he never sent me — so if anyone has an insight on what he might’ve wanted to say, I’d be delighted to hear it.)
Text copyright 2000, 2001, 2002, 2006 Eri Izawa (

In every form of practice, whether meditation, medicine, or mixed martial arts, the external challenge or opponent disappears and we are left with the internal opponent, our own patterns of reaction that prevent us from effectively meeting or facing what is arising. From this perspective, courage consists in being able to endure the patterns of reaction without being immobilized or carried away by them. Thus, in daily life, when you run into problems, regard the problems simply as features of the landscape that have to be negotiated and focus your effort on meeting the reactive patterns that prevent you from doing what is effective, appropriate or necessary.
—Ken McLeod

A pattern of reaction. 

Are we all subject to patterns of reaction? Or am I alone in the experience of my mind drawing me back and forth, away from the present, into the regrets of the past or the aversions of the future. I read Ken’s advice over and over, yet this morning something shifted. It was not a “sky’s have parted” kind of shift, but rather a settling, like the moment when you watch a silted beach settle following large waves, and the bottom starts to become clear. It is a precious observation for the silt is slight, and any currents from waves or torrents will easily disrupt the silence. 

Yet, the bottom is always there. The foundation is always here. The centre is always the centre. The illusion of the bottom, foundation or centre disappearing is just that – an illusion. Yet we believe because our senses are presented an alternate picture, that the centre is dissolving; the foundation is shifting; the bottom is collapsing. 

Yet the bottom is always there. The foundation is always here. The centre is always the centre. 

So why do we succumb to the illusion? Why do we believe the illusion when we’ve experienced the return of the centre numerous times before? Why do we doubt the infinite nature of the light that is ki – the source of all moments?  

We succumb, for the illusion is the most insidious of illusions – an illusion that does not lead us to believe, but IS a belief. The illusion is a belief. A belief that the centre has dissolved, the foundation has eroded, the bottom has crumbled. The illusion is not an illusion of senses. The illusion is an illusion of belief. 

Illusions of senses, although powerful, do not shift the beliefs of the mind. They challenge them, trick them, mislead them. 

But illusions of belief are beliefs that attempt to replace, substitute or displace those beliefs that we have come to rely upon to frame our world, frame our view, frame our reactions. This is why illusions of belief are so much more powerful, for they not only frame our view, but more critically, they frame our reactions. As such, if they can frame our reactions, they become our reactions, and in become our reactions, they become — come-to-be — us. 

Such a view begs the question that are not all our beliefs illusions, projections, patterns? And if all our beliefs are projections, how are we to know which are “real” and which are “false”?  Are we not solely able of defining real and false by our preference, desires and aspirations?  What is the alternative? What is the basis upon which we can test our illusions of belief against a broader truth, a more universal truth?

The absolute present. Setsuna. The infinite now. 

Illusions of belief can only reside in the memories of the past, or the aspirations of the future. Illusions of belief can only thrive, grow and root in the regrets of the past — even the past of a few seconds ago — or in the fear, worry or desires of the future — even if the future is but a breath away. 

Illusions of belief cannot reside in the absolute present, in the infinite now, for in the now —setsuna— there is no illusion, there is just experience, just sensations, just connection with the infinite possibilities of the absolute. Illusions of belief cannot thrive in ki, they cannot live or contact ki, for illusions of belief are tension. They are tension of the mind, tension of thought, tension of consciousness. 

In setsuna, there is no tension for there is only experience, there is only absolute presence, there is only sensations underpinned, guided and created by Ki. 

And in no tension of thoughts, there is peace. In no tension of thoughts, illusions of belief dissolve, for there is no ground upon which to root, for there is no ground. There is nothing, for there is but emptiness and silence. There is nothing, including no illusions of beliefs. 

Our battle emerges from the incessant nature of our illusions of belief to drag us to the past, or rush us to the future, for the illusions of belief need air, need the tension of though to breath and thrive. 

Hence our battle will forever exist, for we cannot eradicate the past or future. Or is that but another illusion of belief which ensures that we will forever attach to the shores of the past or future? What if choose to head out to the endless ocean, where we loose sight of the shoreline, and have but the absolute present as our existence?

 In that moment, our battle would cease, for we would cease to keep close to the shores of the past or future, and would become immersed in the absolute moment which only the endless ocean of Ki can provide. In that moment, we would have expressed an absolute faith in Ki, for we would become immersed in the ocean of Ki — and we would abandon the desire, the aspiration for a shoreline. 

Then we would truly sail on the ocean, the waves, the eternal Ki. 

Then we would come to be but the infinite moment — setsuna — and all reactions would forever end. 

Do not look upon this world with fear and loathing. Bravely face whatever the gods offer.

~Morihei Ueshiba


Fight or flight.

Hit back, or run away.

Both take root in Fear.

Fear crashes upon these two sensations like a raging river cascades upon her river banks.

So what is the antidote to Fear? What is the antidote to Fear that leaves one wanting to attack, to harm, or want to strike at the source of the Fear? And what of the antidote to the Fear that causes one to avoid, to look away, to run from the moment?

Each and every master, regardless of the era or the place, heard the call and attained harmony with heaven and earth. There are many paths leading to the top of Mount Fuji, but there is only one summit — love.

~ O’Sensei

The antidote is Love.

Love, but not the action of love, which emanates from desire or attachment – which makes such love susceptible to the ebbs and flows of life – conditional to the external world – a reactionary love.

It is Love. Being Love. Love which does not emanate from desire, but rather is the vibration that defines our soul, our essence, our entirety. Love that is ultimately us.

When we become Love, come-to-be Love, when our be-ing is Love, Fear can no longer root itself.  Neither Fear can find even a sliver of space to take hold of our spirit – not Fear that causes us to fight, or Fear that causes to one to flee.

In the presence of Love, Fear becomes a sensation, like any other, which then comes and goes like clouds in a stormy sky.

When we are Love, we no longer worry about the world and the ways of the world, for then our response to all moments – good or bad, Fear-creating or not – will remain the same…equanimous, balanced, mirroring the essence of the only truth – Love.

“Aikido practice is a method of incorporating the fundamentals of Great Harmony, Great Love, and Gratitude into one’s own heart.”
~ Linda Holiday 

When we are Love, we will welcome every moment with our be-ing of Love, our essence of Love and light.

In that moment, we are truly in the moment, no longer an observer of the moment from the past or from the future – we become the moment, come-to-be in the moment.

In that space, in that moment, Love can no longer be an action, but becomes a way – do – of be-ing.

And in that moment, Fear is defeated.

Fear is without ground. Fear which leads us to fight or to flight, is embraced like a scared child. And quieted, calmed, soothed.

Leaving us with what we started with… Love.

May your Aikido, your practice, your do, be your way to becoming, your way to coming-to-being nothing but Love in this moment, and every moment that follows.

Budo is Love

~ O’Sensei

A recent posting by über blogger Leo Babauta entitled “The Way to Be” was insightful in how he described ‘melting’ as a way to be with someone challenging our balance and centering. Most notable in his description of ‘melting’ is the imagery of blending with the other – not looking to change or alter the other – but rather to simply blend, accept and become one with the other.

Although Leo’s treatise is not rooted in aikido, his presentation of melting is a metaphor worth considering when engaging an opponent or Uke.


The Way to Be
By Leo Babauta

Last night I received a phone call from a loved one, someone who I love deeply but have struggled with internally because I’ve been worried about his health.

I want to help him, because I feel I’m losing him.

I want to show him my habit method, so he can give up smoking and drinking and eating unhealthy foods, can take up exercise and meditation, and all of a sudden be transformed into a healthy person again.

And of course, I can’t. I want to control something that scares me, but I can’t. I’m not in control of the universe (haven’t been offered the job yet), and I’m not in control of anyone else. I want to help, but can’t.

So I melted.

Not melted as in “had a meltdown”, which sounds wonderful if you like melted foods but actually isn’t. I melted as in I stopped trying to control, stopped trying to change him, and instead softened and accepted him for who he is.

And guess what? Who he is? It’s wonderful. Who he is — it’s super awesome mad wonderful. He’s funny and loving and wise and passionate and crazy and thoughtful and philosophical and did I mention crazy?

I melted, and accepted, and only then could I actually enjoy his presence instead of worrying about losing him or changing him.

And this, as I’ve learned, is the best way to be.

We can stop trying to change people, and just melt into their presence, just notice who they really are, just appreciate it. We can stop complaining about our life circumstances, about our losses, about how the world is, and just melt into it.

Just accept. Just notice. Just appreciate.

This is the way to be.

If you try to hold a cup of water absolutely still,
It won’t work.
How can you still your cup if thoughts, without any ripple?
Just put the cup down, and let it take its own course without interference
– Sri Ananda

A vibration is usually the first sign of the stillness coming forth and expressing its full presence. Not a truck rumbling kind of vibration. But more like a motor – a pulsing, quickly turning motor that peers just above the consciousness, if you let everything else just fade away for a while.
Thus vibration is the color of the stillness, it’s texture, it’s odor. I call it it’s texture for stillness is otherwise elusive in description, for words come from stillness. It is like the proverbial fish describing the water. It just is, the fish would say.

Our stillness is the water. It just is. It is our breath. Our light. Our life. We emerge from the stillness, and we return to the stillness, interrupted only briefly by the shortest of journeys we call a life. Yet, we quickly forge a path that is composed of everything but the stillness. We maintain that our path, our life cannot be full without filling the emptiness with the makings of reputation, opinion or desires. If we do it long enough, like the glass, we fill it to the point where nothing can be added, where the glass overflows and nothing new is retained, and only the old attachments become our existence.

Like the silence that remains even when noise overtakes our senses, the emptiness that is the infinite stillness remains, awaiting the tipping of the proverbial glass.

So what are we to do first? Empty the glass, but leave the tap open? In so doing, we just keep filling the glass. Maybe even more quickly if we discover that the glass is empty, a feeling we can’t recall feeling maybe since our conscious memories, or shortly thereafter.

We just turn off the tap. We must stop. We must cease to fill the emptiness with emotions, sensations, reflexes, fears, wants, mindless actions, acting out…

Doing nothing is essential for thinking to occur. Many of the most important thoughts are unintentional—they can be neither solicited nor cajoled but have a rhythm of their own, creeping up, arriving, and leaving when we least expect them. It is important to cultivate the lassitude of mind that clears a place for the arrival of what cannot be anticipated. Idleness allows time for the mind to wander to places never before imagined and to return transformed.
—Mark C. Taylor

We must stop. Just stop. Just stop, knowing that it won’t empty the glass, it won’t bring forth the stillness and the infinite emptiness. It will simply cease to fill the emptiness, letting the same happen as with the glass, letting it just sit empty, slowly leaking and draining the vessel.

Although one would be tempted to tip over the glass and make it empty as quickly as possible, this would be the same as filling the glass with stuff. The action of emptying the glass more quickly than it can empty on its own is an act of filling the glass. Emptiness and stillness cannot be emptied and returned to its original form. It can only be left to return to its original nature under its own ways.

Only by returning to the stillness and the emptiness can you empty them of their baggage. Only by letting the stillness and infinite emptiness rest, just rest, can they float to the surface of the noise, the stuff, the actions, thoughts, feelings, sensations that have overfilled it for so long.

It is convenient therefore that simply being in the stillness and infinite emptiness is what is needed to both stop filling the emptiness, as well as emptying the emptiness.

How many days does it take to empty the glass? I guess it depends on the size of the glass, how much stuff is in the glass, and how leaky is the glass. It also depends how serious you are about stopping to fill the glass with more stuff.

Well, the glass is large, it’s many years worth of filling. It’s lots of stuff, large and small, sticky and runny, old and new, good and bad. Let’s say it’s full.

Perhaps we all carry an immemorial wound, an infinite loss, a self-exile we perpetrate on ourselves. It turns us into isolated entities stalking the earth in search of what we think we need—the temporary stays against ennui, despair, loss, and terror. But sooner or later, the wound can carry us toward its own remedy, if we only let it.
—Henry Shukman

How leaky it is puts forth an interesting observation. If you are attached, sticky, clingy, to the many things in your glass, you may very well have described the importance of non-attachment, as attachment is effectively the recipe for making your glass water tight. You want a leaky glass? Bask in no-attachment. Then your glass will begin to leak, and empty itself of its contents.

As for adding new things into the glass, such things can only come from outside the emptiness and the stillness. The fewer these things are brought into your consciousness, the books and the media, the thoughts and the emotions, the wants and the fears. Both our world and our minds will find ingenious ways to continue to seek cracks and fissures to fill our space. Attaching to preventing them from entering is not the answer, as with attachement comes the clinging and glue that this external stuff needs to stick.

We can’t stop the mind from attempting to fill the emptiness, no different than we can prevent the external world from trying to sell us corn flakes.

So, rather than resisting, allow them to try. Invite them to try. Openly tell them that they are more than welcomed to fill the glass. Tell the world. Tell your mind. Not just tell them, invite them. Warmly greet them and observe them wanting to fill your emptiness and silence.

Then let go. Then detach. Not dettach as in surrender, detach as in non-attachment. Just don’t stick to them, and let the vessel stay empty. Let the vessel get really leaky, just letting these thoughts, ideas, sensations and emotions just come, and just leak out of the boat.

If you truly detach from the all, you will find your vessel as leaky as a sieve. It will just offer a bit of resistance in letting it go, but it will let it go, for it can’t do otherwise.

And you will find yourself left with not much. Only stillness, silence, infinite emptiness, and nothing left for which to cling or attach to.

This is another way you can consider the words

Be still
Be silent
Be without need

You become without need when you have nothing within you to cling to, to grasp, to attach to. For you become infinite stillness, infinite emptiness, and the voiding silence that accompanies them.

In stillness and silence you will find the infinite emptiness within which needlessness rest.

Buddhism teaches us that desire, for all the agony and ecstasy, is no match for the truth.
– Joan Duncan Oliver

We cannot live in the past; it is gone. Nor can we live in the future; it is forever beyond our grasp. We can live only in the present.

– S.N. Goenka

A little under two years ago, I was fortunate to attend a 10 day vipassana retreat north of Montebello Quebec, Canada. Although my reasons for attending were largely driven by various life challenges at the time, I was surprised to discover, and not, that there were many similarities between vipassana and my practice of aikido at the time. Since that 10 day retreat, I’ve been pretty regular with my daily vipassana practice, putting in on average one hour per day on the cushion. Over those many months since the retreat, I’ve come to draw parallels between vipassana and my aikido practice, notably in relation to the various aikido principles, as well as some of what I consider to be core lessons and values of Ki-aikido practice.


In vipassana, seeking equanimity to internal sensations becomes a battle with ones own thoughts and mental secretions, in addition to any sensations that come from through the five physical senses. How surprised we can be when we observe the intensity by which our own physical and mental sensations can simply overpower our will, leading us to various unforeseen reactions. Sitting on the cushion becomes a dojo of the mind and body, where our consciousness trains to become equanimity to whatever arises – internal, or external.

In aikido, we seek equanimity at every moment, most notably when we are being attacked physically, mentally, emotionally or even spiritually. Such attacks are not really the attack that concern us, but rather they become the triggers for our reaction to the threat – the fight or flight which can so dominate our mental and physical reactions. Like the cushion, the mat becomes the training ground to develop an equanimity in response to whatever arises externally or internally, at any time.

In both the cases of aikido and vipassana, equanimity brings us to a state of ongoing response to the discrete sequence of moments that compose our lives. Through equanimity, response – and not reaction – becomes our way of being.


One of the most dramatic occurrences during the 10 day retreat was becoming aware of the depth and range of sensations that are continuously playing throughout our bodies. Some sensations are subtle and soft, others hard and harsh. But all have the potential of attaching the mind and leading to actions which are largely, if not primarily driven by the sensations in question. To discover that our bodily and mental sensations are just simply just that – sensations that come and go – we practice by simply observing without attachment so that we may slowly make our way to freedom.

In aikido, sensations are in many instances what hinders us, challenges us, scares us, and forces us to react to moments when we either feel actual pain from a hold or pin, or when we fear that we will be harmed. Sensations at first become our master, but then become our teachers, our guide, our mentor for how to act and respond to the current moment. Sensations become not only those isolated to individual limbs or extensions, but become those that are the whole of our physical selves – sensations that in some instances are not the reflections of the senses, but rather the reaction to a trigger or conflict brought to us externally, or in many instances, internally.

Sensations are in the cases of aikido and vipassana the uke which truly trains us to become centered and free – free from the sensations themselves – at which moment we become connected not with our sensations, but the with universe entire.

Balance and centering

Towards the last few days of the 10 day retreat, a sense of balance and centering started to emerge – a sense that was not sensory or sensations per se, but rather a vibration, a settling of the troubled waters of the mind and spirit. Upon those settled waters, our physical and mental sensations begin to be reflected and our ability to choose to respond becomes more acute. With each additional hour of practice on the cushion, our ability to act from a point of balance and centre – a single point, one point – comes to be our way of being.

In that moment, balance and centering becomes the result of equanimity, and not the source of equanimity – equanimity is detachment from sensations per se. With equanimity as a settling, an evenness of the spirit, body and mind, we find the tranquility that manifests in the harmony of ones mind, body and spirit. In equanimity, we become connected with the infinite stillness that is Ki, the essence of life, the light of the eternal universe.

In equanimity upon the cushion or the mat, we find that the breath settles, the body relaxes and the mind expands to the edges of the infinite, where the spirit can fully reside.

…when I say watch, don’t TRY to watch, otherwise you will become tense again, and you will start concentrating on the breath. Simply relax, remain relaxed, loose, and look…because what else can you do?


Relax completely

Meditation can often be confused or equated with relaxation. I don’t consider meditation relaxation – quite the opposite – there are days that it is downright draining. But it is on those days that the practice becomes true practice – a practice of extracting and reshaping the habits, the deep rooted habits that form the patterns of our reactions and the responses to those moments which compose our lives.

This is why vipassana, like aikido, lead us both to the moment where the important lessons is in relaxing not in response to the world, but in spite of it. At our core resides our true essence, our complete lightness from which each moment can manifest as our purpose of being. Many challenges arise when we either mentally, physically or spiritually attach our selves to an outcome, a desired result, a wished way of being. Attachment becomes our downfall, and we emerge overtaken by our mental or other cravings.

In aikido, like vipassana, our training encourages us to find ways to become relaxed, and remain relaxed, irrespective of the internal or external challenges that come our way, at any moment. Relaxation, in both cases, is an outcome of the practice, not the prescription to arrive at the practice in the first place.

Coordination of mind, body and spirit

Coordination of mind, body and spirit, as my aikido training has shown me, is the whole purpose for the practice. In practice, we strive to arrive at a harmony of mind, body and spirit which provides us with the centre, the relaxation, the flow to respond to whatever attacks, threats or challenges we may face – on or off the mat.

In vipassana, the time spent on the cushion becomes the training by which we similarly exercise and develop our ability to respond to whatever challenges, threats or attacks from our own mind or the sensations it can trigger. It was during day 6 or 7 of the 10 day retreat that I found myself in an intense battle with the sensations which were the product of my mind’s desire to not sit and observe the sensations themselves.  In a moment of surrender, I released the desires to control and attempt to the change the sensations of the moment, and simply allowed the whole to come together – a moment where the spirit became fully harmonious and equanimous with both the mind’s and body’s sensations. At that moment, all illusions fell away, and the only moment that ever existed became the present moment – no past, no future, only the infinite present.

True victory is self victory

After 10 days of sitting, it became clear that my training had only begun, and that I would have many hours to sit on the cushion and simply observe the various sensations, strong and harsh, cold and fear-engaging, warm and loving, or ego-driven. In essence, the 10 days of sitting on the cushion taught me that the only victory to be sought was the victory over one’s own sensations and illusions, victory over one’s own beliefs, aversions and adversions, if arriving at such a state can be truly called a victory.

Rather than victory, it could be called developing an awareness – an awareness of the possibility that we each possess the means by which to discover and maintain equanimity over our self emotions, our mental and physical sensations, and have the ability to choose our responses according to reality – including our full range of sensations – strong or weak, good or bad.

As with aikido, where we train to become the way (do) of harmony (ai) with the flow of the universe (ki), vipassana emerged for me over the 10 days, and remains today, the training to come to be the required response to both the external and internal world in the absolute present moment.

Although I draw the parallels between aikido and vipassana, I am convinced that many, if not all spiritual paths ultimately and inevitably lead to the same door – the door to freedom from illusion, the door of harmony of mind body and spirit, and the door of pure and absolute love in the infinite presence.

Given that no single path can get us there, may we all find the few paths we each are called upon to take our few simple steps.

Therefore no effort is more worthwhile for a human being than the exertion of all one’s faculties to take steps on this path.

– S.N. Goenka

Many treatises, reflections and words of advice have come from the world of warfare. Numerous historical pieces are mandatory reading and re-reading in leading military schools and academies.

But what of the world or work, notably one where collaboration is not the norm?

Many of those principles apply more than ever in a work world where adversarial, hyper-partisan and, in some cases, physically violent environments exist. Although the later is thankfully rare, the level of mental, emotional and verbal aggressive behaviour – what would be called bullying by any other name – remains all too prominent. Just watch a few minutes of any modern democracy’s parliament or seat of power to get a flavour of what is considered “normal” behaviour – behaviour that would send any child to the principle’s office or in suspension for a week.

Such aggressiveness in our common moments at work leaves one wondering : what classics can one consider to becoming a warrior in a business suit, a warrior who does not become part of the problem, but rather brings stillness, harmony and peace to every moment.
A few books I’ve found inspirational range from the spirit of war to the spirit of peace – yet are all routed in the spirit of victory over an adversary – which in all instances, once you’ve removed the focus on the external enemy or adversary, leaves one facing the most daunting adversary of all – ourselves.

The Art of War
Sun Tzu’s The Art of War is the quintessential war literature classic. Covering the breadth of warfare, it is rooted as much in philosophy as in strategy and tactics, if not weighted more on the former. Somewhat difficult to approach for the non-initiated, repeated visits to this historic text will slowly pay off in broadening one’s toolbox of stratagems, tactical approaches and principles for honourable victory. A definite must have in any leader’s library.

The Book of Five Rings
Miyamoto Musashi’s The Book of Five Rings is less well know than Sun Tzu’s Classic, but no less influential. Musashi is considered Japan’s greatest ever swordsman, and his reflections on conflict, strategies and tactics reflect a more philosophical core than one of battle stratagems. As with The Art of War, The a book of Five Rings is ultimately a treatise of philosophy, and will require multiple visits to begin to fully appreciate Musashi’s insights into the art of the sword – the soul of the samurai.

On War
Clausewitz is the modern Art of War, routed in Clausewitz’s extensive experience, and deep knowledge of the art of strategy and tactics. Although, like the other works, it can be mistaken as a technical text, Clausewitz does commit considerable attention to the moral and political aspects of conflict – in essence acknowledging that peace is the ultimate aim of war. His most famous quote remains “the best developed plan never survives first contact with the enemy” – a core stratagem in any strategic context – and one that merits much study in our modern age.

Yamamoto Tsunetomo drafted this as a “guide for life” for the samurai partly in response to their slowly eroding role from warriors to servants. Quite difficult to approach at first, the Hagakure is filled with many concise, yet deeply reflective, almost koan-like passages that can keep one contemplating the deeper meaning of life, death and service. Although more typically reserved for the martial artist seeking a treatise from a zen-routed samurai, it does present some valuable insights for the executive seeking guidance in balancing life and conflict-laden work.

The Unfettered Mind
Yagyu Munenori, major samurai rival to Miyamoto Musashi, was provided by a zen monk named Takuan Soho, what some consider the least known, but arguably the most relevant book on warfare. Although it does not come across as a text book on war and strategies, it is effectively the most important treatise on warfare – a guide to how to master the self, the mind – the ultimate challenge in any time of conflict and adversity. The Unfettered Mind requires, like many comparable works, repeated reading and subsequent introspection, but the results of ones efforts in learning to master the mind in times of conflict are nothing short of life altering. The Unfettered Mind remains of the few classics on self mastery yet to be discovered as a classic.

The Art of Peace
Morihei Ueshiba, founder of the art of Aikido, was, in the end a man of peace, a philosopher and one who embodied peace – in the true sense of one who lived peace by way of harmony of mind, body and spirit. Although many of his writings and reflections have been captured in various forms, Ueshiba’s the Art of Peace is the antithesis of the Art of War, not only in title, but from the basis that ultimate victory is about self mastery, self control, self victory. The Art of Peace is, like Aikido, short on content, but deep on substance and meaning, with each passage first appearing harmless, yet filled with koan-like brilliance. If the Art of War is about warfare facing outward, the Art of Peace is about warfare facing inward – providing a way to masakatsu agatsu katsu ayame : true victory is self victory right here right now – the answer Ueshiba would share when asked “why do you practice Aikido”?

Although many other classics could be included, such as Machiavelli’ The Prince, the above amount to my personal “desert island” picks which would keep one reading, reflecting and re-visiting for many lifetimes, all in the pursuit of masakatsuagatsu.

“Those who are attached only to the result of their effort will not have any chance to appreciate it, because the result will never come. But if moment by moment your effort arises from its pure origin, all you do will be good, and you will be satisfied with whatever you do”
– Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind

What is pure origin? Pure origin is emptiness, silence, nothingness. Pure origin is that from which we come, and to that which we become at the end of our brief journey. We come from nothingness, and we return to nothingness.

Even when we are here for a few fleeting moments on earth, we are largely, if not mostly emptiness, mostly nothingness. We are emptiness of space, emptiness of thought, emptiness of senses, mostly pure emptiness.

Our challenge is that our senses are not attuned to detect the emptiness, the silence, the stillness, the nothingness. Quite the opposite – our senses are there to detect images, sounds, smells, aromas, tastes and sensations which permeate the emptiness that is pure origin. Even our mind is tuned to detect the mental sensations that fill pure origin – thoughts, emotions, mental chatter, and all other forms of mental traffic.

So what are we to do to sense the pure origin, to sense nothingness and silence, to sense emptiness and stillness?

The best technique is none at all
– Henry Miller

We sit. Just sit.

We sit with the focus on the one point, the Hara – center of our perception. We sit with mind becoming one with the Hara. We sit with Hara, for the Hara is the only place where pure origin can be sensed. We sit with Hara, for the Hara is pure origin – the Hara is stillness, silence, nothingness, emptiness.

From Hara, we can grow the stillness, the silence to envelope us, then slowly to envelope our home, our city, our country, our world, our universe.

In each breath, we can grow the Hara to envelope the space around us with stillness, with silence, with nothingness. And when enough breathes have been taken, we can sit within the sphere which the Hara has created for us, and within the sacred space of pure origin see the images our eyes capture, hear the sounds our ears observe, smell and taste the molecules the environment submits to us, and sense the temperature and breeze our bodies detect.

But unlike when we simply sense, when within the Hara, we sense all against the backdrop, the totality which is pure origin, pure emptiness, pure silence, pure stillness. Pure nothingness. As such, pure nothingness is not filled, it is not replaced, it is not substituted by the senses – it becomes the vessel within which all occurs.

Pure origin therefore also becomes the space within which thoughts and emotions, urges and impulses – all mental sensations also manifest.

And in the moment that you begin to sense against the totality which is pure origin both your physical and mental sensations – without eradicating pure origin – you remain pure origin. You remain stillness. You remain silence. You remain nothingness.

You remain what you have always been, and always will be – your pure origin.

Your practice must bring you in touch with your pure origin. If it does not, it is not practice rooted in pure origin.

Practice being one with Pure origin, with your Hara enveloping the universe entire – and you will sense and perceive with detachment, with harmony, with pure and total perception.

Practice being one with Hara, and you will become the ongoing response to the truth of the world.

Practice, and you will begin your journey returning to your pure origin, your absolute truth – the stillness, silence and emptiness within which the Ki of the universe manifests.

Just sit. And practice.

“Action does not depend on thought, feeling, emotions. Actions depend on your perception at every moment”
– Kenjiro Yoshigasaki

“Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.” ~Chinese Proverb

An unfettered mind is a mind free to respond. No reaction, no urgency, no rushing – calm, flowing response. Like a river rushing, it rushes no faster than gravity or the river bed will permit. The river doesn’t react, it responds to the forces of the earth, the curves of the ground, the winds overhead. And when the winds cease and the ground levels out, then the river returns to its original state – just water.

Our practice is to slow down and return to our original state, so that we can know it when we revisit the torrential river.

Our practice is to cultivate attention to the point where we can experience whatever arises, without reacting, by remaining in the original state of relaxation and complete awareness.

“the practice of meditation is the study of what is going on”
– thich nhat hahn

Our practice is to become fully aware, fully mindful of the absolute present, with complete acceptance, for when something arises in your experience that you cannot experience, you go to reaction rather than response. When the moment is not accepted as the result of all the moments which came before it, you cease to respond to the reality that is the absolute present, and move to the past or future minds, where fears, wants and desires reside.

Our practice needs to cultivate a level of attention so that we can experience whatever arises – thereby not needing to fall into reaction. Our practice needs to cultivate not only our ability to see and sense the experiences around us, but to see the, at the pace at which they are occuring, at the times that they are occurring – and not at the pace or time that we wished they occurred. Wishing them differently is attachment. Attachment is tension. Tension is the root of reaction.

Accepting them as they are is detachment. Detachment is relaxation. Relaxation is the root of responding.

As Ken McLeod expressed, our practice is to experience we are free to respond to what the situation actually requires – not what the situation is provoking in us. All situations are gifts, for they all can provoke a reaction from us. Mild reactions and severe reactions. Harsh reactions and pleasant reactions. Our practice should be a practice of equanimity – one where our reactions are replaced by our responses. From the outside, our responses may appear the same, if not identical to our reaction – but it is not a reaction.

And in that moment, as inspired by Ken McLeod, we can then become an ongoing response to the pain and suffering of the world.

Our practice is to find the harmony, the balance, the equanimity to become an ongoing response, a continuous set of responses, moment after moment, second-by-second responses to each infinite moment.

And when you find yourself reacting, having broken the ongoing response, slow down, breathe deeply, and return to your practice – thereby returning to the journey of becoming an ongoing response to the pain, the suffering, the truth of each moment presented to us.

“Restore your attention or bring it to a new level by dramatically slowing down whatever you’re doing.” – Sharon Salzberg