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One Point

“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

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“ki flows from the breath. Inward and outward, deeply into and out of the hara, breath brings forth ki, and returns ki to the whole of the universe”.

-namaste

In the fullest moment, words emerge from our soul, from our spirit, and not our mind or our thoughts. These moments are the most enriching, the most fulfilling, for words are no longer words, but they are vibrations, they are our spirit speaking in symbols and images through which we hopefully connect with others.

For what other purpose are words, spoken and written, but to connect with others?
Words, when spoken or emerging from the hara, in the case of the written form, take on a weight, a flow, a meaning that words spoken from the mind and thoughts cannot have. I have written many words from the mind, words to convince, words to convey frustration or desire for change, words to request something. Words which, like noise, are sent into the world looking for somewhere to land, somewhere to be heard, and wishfully accepted, respected, acknowledged.

These are not the words I speak of at this moment. The words we speak of emerge from ku, vacuity, from silence, emptiness, voidness, nothingness. These are words that are resonances of our soul, our journey, our path, our dō. Such words are filled with Ki, born of Ki, infused with Ki, and therefore seek not to influence, alter, distract. They are words which reflect the eternal truth, the truth that we all seek in one form or another.

Unlike moments that fill the space with endless dialogue, I speak of words that are few, words that seek not to overwhelm the intellect with impressive logic, or rarity of use, but rather words that come from the pure present moment. Not words which are weighted down by the past, or words that seek to form the future. Such words are from the present moment, from the infinite present where all words always emanate, but fall prey to ambition, greed, fear or attachment. True words emerge from sensations of lightness and light, not weight and darkness.

In the fullest moments, words are spoken with a breath that exhales deeply from the hara, words that are spoken with the spirit of kiai. All our spoken words can be words filled with kiai, for all words are the products of exhalation – too frequently not from the hara, but from the mind, the ego. In the same way, written words can be created from the exhalation of the spirit, from the hara, where the key strokes or pen strokes are not from the mind or ego, but from the body and the spirit, the whole of the body engaged in the action of the symbols being stitched together. In such moments, words, like song, emerge as a flow of consciousness, a product of the infinite present being the source of the energy and spirit. Such words, like songs, are infused with life – for no true words, like music, can emerge only from mind and ego only.

Many moments and days interfere with this state of creation, overcome by the emergency of wanting more, the rush to nowhere, the pressure to busyness, the distraction as modern currency. Attention, the essential ingredient for the concentration of ki, is rarely found, and if so, threatened by the addiction to distraction.

“What is concentration? The ability for harmony, to put all one’s ki, all one’s energy into every single act one performs”
-Deshimaru

From harmony of mind, body and spirit, words are not required, not essential, for harmony is the state of being with the emptiness and nothingness of the universe – being with the energy of the cosmos, Ki. In harmony, the mind empties of the need to articulate words and finds truth in vibrations and resonance. Words become the conduit for such vibrations, bringing forth the truth deeply within.

So how do we know if words, spoken internally or posed externally, are infused with Ki?
Listen. Simply listen, deeply, patiently, with the spirit and the whole. Listen with the mind, the body and the spirit, not only the body, or only the mind, or only the spirit. Words which speak to only one of the three are words not infused with Ki – they are words which seek to please the body, impress the mind or appease the spirit. Words which are infused with Ki take on the world entire, and bring the universal truth before one’s moment.

Listen, deeply, for the silence and emptiness within the words, for words infused with Ki are in essence empty. They are empty of ambition and desire, empty of greed or want, void of all desires of the mind or body. They are, like the light of the sun, or sound of the wind, purely the emanation of life itself, which brings to emptiness no more than emptiness is willing to allow. Such words do not overfill, they simply speak the truth of the moment, leaving much silence and emptiness, given the listener much space to reflect.

I fell that there are few words today that are filled with Ki. So many words fill the space, yet are the products of the mind. So few words are the natural product of the harmony of mind, body and spirit. So few.

And so it will remain, for few words can be filled with Ki. Few spoken or written words can be infused with Ki. So listen, observe and notice when such words find their way to you.

Listen, deeply, and remind yourself to speak from the hara, and write from the hara. That way, your words will be a small attempt at bringing more Ki into the world.

For the most powerful words are those filled with Ki.
But they can be identical to words that are NOT infused with Ki.
Only tranquil, mindful awareness will enable you to notice the difference.

Listen.

“Zazen cannot be expressed in words because that would be fooling people, like offering them a painting of an apple and telling them it is good to eat”
–Deshimaru

Eternal
Infinite
Stillness
One point is void of all
As is the universe entire
In harmony

Stillness, silence and non-attachment
The one point
Becomes one with the stillness, silence and emptiness
That is all and nothing
All material things, earth and water and air – from which we come
All thoughts, ideas and mental secretions which emerge from conscious, sentient existence
All desires, aspirations, dreams, which are mental but also spiritual – from the heart

All sensations we have known, know, and will know
Will come and will go
within the eternal stillness

Leaving only the eternal, infinite stillness
The eternal, infinite silence
The eternal, infinite emptiness
detached from all
For it is everything
And nothing

“Any notion of time takes you out of presence.”
– Ken McLeod, An Arrow to the Heart

The past cast with one’s flesh
Memories and recollections echo
Images and sounds, shadows and light
Etched in emptiness

The future painted with one’s mind
Desire and curiosity create
Wind and currents, space and time
Projected into nothingness

The present manifested with one’s soul
Impermanence and change resides
Infinite space, timeless breath
Forever fleeting

The infinite point from one’s harmony
Endless and eternal light
Flowing waves, dark torrents
Comes to know without knowing

“One must be deaf to the conceptual articulations and rely on the indefinable experience of knowing itself”.
~Ken McLeod

…observations from the mat – july 2013…

There’s no secret to balance. You just have to feel the waves.

~ Frank Herbert

it begins by approaching in a relaxed state, with no tension at Hara of in the vicinity of Hara, such as the hips or lower back.

it then evolves by taking up ki slack, taking up, blending with Uke’s ki, and putting it to Hara, which, if relaxed, is like a pond into which a ki waterfall empties itself.

it then becomes a flow of ki, an extension of ki to begin the movement. with ki focused, and coordinated, let ki be the start of the motion. lead the motion and follow the motion, but do not push the movement (or pull it). it starts with the other. if the other does not start the motion, then focus on ki yet again.

When you’re rigid it’s because inside there’s uncertainty. When you’re confident about something you stay relaxed.

~Ken McLeod

do not push or pull to start the movement. once and only once the movement begins, only then can some action like weight underside become valuable. but never with the tension, only with weight underside or natural movement. like leading or following with more weight – but just enough weight.

the sequence is like so…

…two hands on the wrist
…relax completely
…pick up ki and blend into a relaxed Hara and Hara space
…extend ki from Hara into direction of movement
…sense and feel the movement begin from the Uke
…with movement initiated, weight underside accelerates – not muscle tension
…let weight fall and ki extend down to the ground
…the movement is done

“I do not know the way to defeat others, but the way to defeat myself.”

~Yagyū Munenori

… do nothing which is of no use …

~Musashi

On the mat, many a times, the tendency to overdo, over-engineer, over think the technique, to over analyze the approach, to resort to “why did this work last time, and not right now”, or better yet to “I can’t get this right, let’s stop for a moment so I can rethink this…”.

You get the idea.

So many times, the mind decides to show up, kick the door open and say “let me take care of this”. And that’s exactly when the whole practice goes to hell in a hand basket. The mind cannot help itself but to analyze, conceptualize, rationalize, redefine, compare, assess, critique, recommend, or any other [insert other mental action here].

For me, and I assume for others, the mental context has been one of the most challenging to eliminate on the mat. We live in a society where ideas, thoughts, words and other mental constructs rule the day. We are judged by our logic, our rational thoughts, our mental prowess. Yet, the mind is the barrier to an aikido that is fluid, dynamic, present and whole.

Is this what Musashi’s quote represents?

Do nothing which is of no use. The mind is much more likely on the mat to bring the action of doing – rather than the state of being. And in the mental action of doing comes the attachment that can hinder your aikido to develop beyond the technique, the physical.

Ironic is it not that the presence required for aikido to fully manifest arises when the mind resorts to observing, pure perception of sensations, of ki flowing, of ki coming and going, of your own position with respect to the earth and the others on the mat.  While the instinct may lead one to believe that placing the mind at one point gives the body too much authority, experience on the mat illustrates that to the contrary, such a choice gives the body the relative importance it must have on the mat – one of harmonious partner, along with the mind and spirit. The mind, in harmony with the body and spirit, gives all their rightful place to perform aikido.

So, to do nothing which is of no use, could be interpreted not as not doing – but rather as just being – pure perception that only just being brings to the present moment.

… the past and the future are only sources for worry and anxiety …

~ Zen proverb

But what of the present? The pure present moment? When on the mat, time becomes a curse and a trap. We live in time, we breath and consume time. We reference unconsciously and consciously all actions, thoughts, events  and moments against a continuum of time. But as many meta-physicists and others mystics have claimed, time is an illusion, a construct of the mind. Time is the frame within which past and future can exist – and therefore give it importance and influence which they ultimately do not have.

On the mat, past and future are often the most subtle of traps. The past entraps our mind to attach to techniques or ukes as a result of some past memory of moment or feelings that do not matter and cannot influence how we execute a technique at this very moment – at this infinitely small point which we call the present.

Similarly, the future entrains the mind to dream about the results, the impacts, the consequences – good or bad – that the execution of our technique might bring. But as with the past, which cannot influence or change what we do at the pure present moment, the future will not result uniquely from what we do in the pure present moment. Too many variables, factors, influences or unknowns have yet to manifest that will contribute to a moment yet to be experienced. Our decisions and choices in the pure present moment will have impact – but no more than a single grain of sand can have on the shape of a sea-shore – each grain contributes, but only together, with each grain absolute and whole, does the shore manifest.

The future, like the past, are illusions, products of an illusion called time. When we resolve to accept this illusion, and simply live and act from pure perception of the present moment, our aikido takes on a quality of lightness and presence – aikido without any and all attachment.

Past or future do not have to be that far away from the absolute present to set their trap. What is the past if not 2 days ago, 2 hours ago, 2 seconds or 0.2 seconds ago. What is the future if not 2 days from now, 2 hours from now, 2 seconds from now or 0.2 seconds from now.  Consider that 0.2 seconds, either way, is already not the present moment. Only in the pure perception of the present moment can non-attachment be maintained. As soon as past or future are engaged, even fractions of a second either way, attachment begins, and the lightness and presence that is our aikido begins to suffer.

The one point that is your physical center is infinitely small, a point without volume, mass or space – an absolutely pure point of nothingness, within which ki can flow, come and go, and provide a core center from which to operate. Similarly, your one point is your temporal center – a point of infinitely small time – an absolutely pure point of nothingness, within which time is non-existent, and ki can flow, come and go, without any hindrance or mental attachment of where it has been or where it is going.

Aikido is pure perception in the present moment. Aikido is developing the ability to return to this center, this pure present moment. Returning quickly. Returning dependably. Returning and resting in the pure perception that is the present moment.

In closing, my interpretation of the quote below is that O’Sensei had developed his ability to return to the pure perception of the present moment to the point where most, if not all, could not detect that he had ever left his center – both physically and temporally.

My students think I’m always centered. I get off center as frequently as you do. I simply recognize it sooner and get back faster.

~O’Sensei