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“I choose not to project my past onto my future”
– Jonathan Lockwood Huie

So what if my past has been about science, logic, efficiency, formal training and schooling, and the ongoing search for truth.

I choose not to project my past onto my present, hence my future will not be my past…

But with no past or future – and just pure present moment – I am what I make of the current flow and choices at this exact timeless point. At this infinite, yet finite point, where choices, decisions and energy converge.

By choosing not to project my past on my future, I choose the pure present moment within which to breathe, express life, flow, and be. No past, no future, just what we do infinite moment by infinite moment, present moment by present moment.

Time, past and future, are illusions created by mindfulness of moments – and memory. But as memory is frequently flawed, and mindfulness is frequently fleeting, time becomes a distorted illusion – the worst of illusions – where neither the memory of moments, nor the record of the moments, is fully accurate.

“When I’m anxious it’s because I’m living in the future. When I’m depressed it’s because I’m living in the past.”
~ Shaena Strubing

Like a film that sputters from frame to frame, our life becomes an illusion of movement, rather than a mindful creation of discrete frames – each frame being thousands’ of a second if our awareness is at the vibrational level; each frame being fractions of a second if awareness is at the sensory level; each frame being minutes or hours if our awareness is purely at the mental level, where attachment and left-brain rationale logic thinking dominates.

Focus on the frames, and the film will unwind itself. Past frames will be past frames, done and complete, fleeting and degrading. Future frames are future – yet to be taken, with no point in trying to take those pictures just yet…their moments will come.

“How do you move a mountain? One stone at a time.”
~Ken McLeod

The movement from ordinary states of self-concern to selfless giving always involves a gradual transformation of character, not a sudden leap. Like any form of strength, generosity needs to be intentionally cultivated over time, and everyone must begin in whatever state of mind they already happen to be.

– Dale S. Wright, “The Bodhisattva’s Gift”

change is occurring. cannot be stopped. cannot be prevented. must be accepted. must be lived. It is happening. question – do we know where it’s taking us? Do we spend our energy trying to know where it is taking us, or do we spend our energy “surfing” the wave?

Do we accommodate change through knowledge, or through action? For many years, the focus has largely been through knowledge. if you understand theories and data, information and knowledge, the change will be less scary – you might even be able to change the change…

all of this is nothing without action

If you know dharma but do not apply it, then you have more regret than if you had never learned any dharma in the first place. If you are not going to apply dharma knowledge to your life—better not to know it at all.

– Kyabgön Phakchok Rinpoche, “Keys to Happiness”

change does not occur from knowing…it occurs from doing. change is life. change is every moment. knowledge, mind committed to the understanding, does not change change. it will happen. changing change is a spiral into suffering.

“Do or not do. There is not try.”

-Yoda

in change, there is no trying. there is simply listening, observing. then doing. or not. not trying to do. doing. or not. knowledge is not doing – it is knowledge. knowing is not doing. it is knowing. doing is doing. not doing is not doing.

trying is the mind convincing itself that it can alter the change, if enough effort is provided. trying is based on the assumption that the self can be protected and saved. the ego can be triumphant. no such luck.

What disintegrates in periods of rapid transformation is not the self, but its defenses and assumptions. Self-protection restricts vision and movement like a suit of armor, making it harder to adapt. Going to pieces, however uncomfortable, can open us up to new perceptions, new data, and new responses.

– Joanna Macy, “The Greatest Danger

to get there, we must explode. explode our ego, our structures. our beliefs. our mind. we must destroy and kill what is our ego and identity, and resort to the purest form. ki.

such a change is daunting. it is a form of suicide. a killing of the self, leading to the traces of the past, but fully charged to take the moments in full possession of our purpose and mission. not in a goal-related way, but in a purpose, like I must breathe to live, and so I must take this path to live.

It’s essential that we at least understand that the built-in resistance is proportionate to the scope and speed of the change.

-George Leonard

the rate of change, and the extent of change will define the pace at which we can change. constrained by scope & speed of change.

as it is on the mat, if there is no apparent pressure or force to change, or speed that is no faster or slower than the change that is self initiated, the technique will be effective.

Only because of emptiness can things change and flow. Emptiness is not a vacuum, a black hole, but the possibility of endless transformations. There is no more grasping, or self-created barriers and limitations. The Buddha-nature can shine through and express itself fully.

– Martine Batchelor, “The Ten Oxherding Pictures”

in emptiness, all change, fast and slow, large and small, will occur. emptiness is permanence. emptiness is infinity. emptiness is silence. emptiness is where ki resides and breathes. where ki flows.
in this emptiness, our purpose and path will manifest. and whatever change is required to bring us there, is possible. not only is it possible, it is where the change comes from. when we accept the silence and the emptiness, all is possible, all is possible. all ceases to attempt to become, and we become whole, in mind, body and spirit.

“In order to be full, we must be empty. If our emptiness is total, we become supremely fulfilled.”

~ Robert Rabbin

Over the past few weeks, I’ve explored to some length meditation on emptiness. Although I’ve dabbled into this question on and off, I was recently inspired by comments on the Heart Sutra by Ken McLeod. I was inspired by the vision that form is emptiness…a fact that I have taken for fact for some time, but within McLeod’s words, I saw a glimpse into something more elusive – the predominance of emptiness above all.

Form is emptiness; emptiness is form. Emptiness is not other than form; form is not other than emptiness. In the same way, feeling, concept, mental formation, and consciousness are emptiness.

~ Ken McLeod

This observation coincided with the lessons from the aikido mat, where I was struggling (and continue to struggle) with reducing, if not seeking to eliminate, an over-intellectualization of my practice. Non-attachment, detachment from all, complete relaxation – all practices aimed at reaching no-mind, no space, nothingness – just being.  Takuan Soho said it best, when he articulated it as follows:

“The effort not to stop the mind in just one place – this is discipline. Not stopping the mind is object and essence. Put it nowhere and it will be everywhere. Even in moving the mind outside the body, if it is sent in one direction, it will be lacking in nine others. If the mind is not restricted to just one direction, it will be in all ten.”

~ Takuan Soho

Put the mind nowhere and it will be everywhere. So the following thought came to me: what if “nowhere” was “nothingness”? What if the stillness, silence, needlessness in emptiness was “nowhere”. Rather than think of “nowhere” in the material sense, I wondered how my practice could evolve if I re-defined “nowhere” as “nothingness”, “emptiness”?

What if practice led us to notice that all happens within this stillness and silence – within nothingness and “nowhere”. What if practice led us to see all our thoughts, mental secretions and consciousness as products that float and are carried by emptiness, nothingness?

What if practice led us to observe all of our words as existing within an eternal, endless silence and emptiness?

What if practice led us to become fully mindful or our actions and movements occurring within eternal, infinite space and time – boundless, timeless emptiness, nothingness?

What if practice brought us to an awareness of everything, all things, all moments, all, existing within infinite, empty, nothingness.

What if practice brought us to an observation that love happens within this space – O’Sensei’s definition of love – a definition not dependent on external conditions, matter or time?

“What is absolute love? Love without an object is absolute love. Love means unity of perception and action.”

~ Kenjiro Yoshigasaki

Over the past few weeks, I have begun to visualize emptiness, nothingness, and have found two sources that have been interesting to say the least, and insightful in creating a sense of the emptiness and nothingness that is our existence.

The first is the Power of Ten video. Although dating back from years now, this classic video revealed the extent to which our universe, internal and external, is, for all intents and purposes, eternal, infinite, endless. It also demonstrated in the most sobering way that most if not all of it is emptiness – nothingness, “nowhereness”.

A second source was a website entitled Cosmic View – the universe in 40 jumps. Although similar to the Power of Ten video in message and method of presentation, one notable exception was when it introduced the nature of our self at the most smallest.  Of particular note: -6 was the most revealing to me – which presented the space between the nitrogen and oxygen molecules that compose the air we breathe. In short – what is the space, the emptiness, the nothingness between the molecules?

This space, this nothingness, this emptiness is the same space that fills the atoms which compose our very being and world; the same space that fills the gap between the endless galaxies and solar systems that is our eternal universe.

With these images as guides, meditating on emptiness then becomes meditating on the eternal, the endless, the boundless infinite space and time that is the “nowhereness”, the nothingness of all reality.  Meditating on infinite nothingness brings one’s practice to a point where the self and all meld; where space becomes boundless, within which all form can manifest and no longer manifest; where time is irrelevant for nothingness is timeless and permanent.

Knowing emptiness is to know that which is within our self, and within all other things. Knowing nowhere is to know all that is possible – past, present and future. Knowing nothing is knowing ‘no-thing’ – knowing that which is eternal, infinite and timeless – within which all is, and is not.

“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”

~ Socrates

…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

Art distills sensations and embodies it with enhanced meaning.

~ Miguel de Unamuno

reflections from a recent meditation session…

a feeling of pressure and entrainment carries me on an almost unconscious level. like being in a running river, life jacket well cliped on, but being entrained nonetheless. it is a feeling, a physical feeling.

sensations in the body can be the root of our actions, our behaviors, our feelings. what if the sensations were so pervasive, and so interlinked with our thinking patterns that we had created an endless closed loop?  like gravity, you cannot know the feeling of not having it unless you go out of your way to eliminate it, or happen to experience by accident, the absence of it, if even for one moment. no amount of reading, re reading and research can substitute for the experience itself – experience, fully lived, can shift ones thinking – ones view of the moment. mindset is not changed by lectures and words – although they have served the purpose in some instances – but by experiences that shift the sensations in the body even for a second.

so how to know what of my thinking creates the sensations of being in a rushing river? when sitting, the imagined fear creates the same sensations as the real fear, acute, localized and real sensations.

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

~ Morihei Ueshiba

but what if the overall sensations were so pervasive, ubiquitous and transparent that we don’t even realize or are aware that they are the result of our thinking? not the result of real experiences – the result of our thinking!

thinking that is not only conscious – but more insidious, our unconscious thinking!! those scripts that run in the background that keep the conscious scripts running. if sitting reveals the effect that our conscious thinking can have on our physical sensations, can sitting reveal our unconscious scripts and thoughts?

if sitting seeks to tune into the vibrations at all levels, then only through deep listening can the unconscious script be observed, and maybe even heard.

listen, deeply, and follow where the mind flows. the conscious can be swayed by the unconscious, but the unconscious cannot sway ki. ki leads all – conscious through the unconscious.

ki, coming, going or sitting still for a moment, leads the mind (conscious, through the unconscious), which leads the body (sensations, movement, speech, glance and attention).  if the mind, both conscious and unconscious, overtake the moment, ki can be taken, directed externally and lead the body.

if your spirit – the realm of ki – is immature, or undertrained, having succumbed to the mind’s power and strength, then our ki is at risk to being taken and moved. our mind is a vicious adversary, one that will never hesitate to grab the upper hand at any time.

In extreme situations, the entire universe becomes our foe; at such critical times, unity of mind and technique is essential – do not let your heart waver!

~ Morihei Ueshiba

training the spirit to give, take and hold ki, will prevent it from being taken by anything, anyone, or any moment. even the mind then becomes no different than any other antagonist – one to be watched, observed, listened and gently asked to play the role it plays – not one of spirit, but one of mind – the master of the body and its biological functions.

watch your mind, conscious and unconscious, always attempting to control ki through taking, sending or holding it.

in some instances, the mind can mimic or even pretend to be the spirit. do not fall spell to this trick. you will know that the mind is mimicking the spirit by the quality of the body. the mind cannot mimic the spirit without the body being engaged. the body will show signs of engagement, of attachment, and will prevent ki from flowing as a result of the background tension that resides. when the spirit is truly present, the five principles manifest, for coordination of mind body and spirit has manifested.

your own mind is your deadliest enemy. your body is the mind’s accomplice. your spirit, with ki as the currency, is truth and life. train the spirit, and ki will be tamed. tame ki, and the mind will no longer be autonomous in its decisions and actions. tame the mind, and the body and its many manifestations as inputs and outputs – manifestations from the mind (movement, glance, listening, touching, speaking and thoughts) – and manifestations from outside (sounds, light, sensations, thoughts, taste and smells) become just that – manifestations.

Always keep your mind as bright and clear as the vast sky, the great ocean, and the highest peak, empty of all thoughts. Always keep your body filled with light and heat. Fill yourself with the power of wisdom and enlightenment.
~ Morihei Ueshiba

“Our hold on the things we cherish is like our grasping the blade of a knife; the tighter we grasp, the more pain and damage when it is pulled from our hand.”

When Buddhists Attack – J.K. Mann

Attachment. The one thing we can count on. Like the sun and the wind – always there. Always ready to act. Attachment is the one constant most of us can speak to with some experience. Anyone who claims having found how not to be attached is very likely attached to ego – or has truly reached enlightenment – at which point they would not likely claim it as such.

Attachment is ubiquitous. Attachment to work, and the belief that success and wealth will bring happiness. Attachment to health, and the hope that prolonged life will bring moments yet to be experienced. Attachment to power, and the desire to control what can never be controlled. Attachment to fear, and the worry that issues and events will destroy our plans. Attachment to words and the false wisdom that owning and speaking words often falsely portrays.

Attachment to desire, and the craving that leads us to seek externally what can only be discovered from a journey within.  We are born into desire, desire for life – but not into attachment and tension. Attachment and tension arise from wanting, from craving, from desire beyond a desire for life. From wanting more than giving.

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.

~ T. S. Eliot

Over time, we grasp and hold so strongly to things, to people, to moments, to memories – that we choke the very life out of the life which surrounds us. We grasp through craving. We grasp through wanting. We grasp through endless desire. We grasp through a vicious circle of grasping for the sake of grasping, for we are taught and observe in others the fruits of grasping – the spoils of craving – and the belief that more is better.

At one moment, all that grasping and wanting fails – and we fall. And when we fall, we choose. We either fall into fear and anger, and choose to re-emerge stronger, hungrier. Most who fall choose this path, for it is expected by society.

Alternatively, fall into a bottomless well of wonder, unknown – but relieving. A relief from years of grasping, for there is nothing to grasp as we fall. We enjoy the fall and the relaxed feeling of knowing that grasping would only harm our hands and get in the way of enjoying the journey. Observe the fall. Notice the sensations of the fall. Enjoy the peace that comes from flowing and being fully present in pure perception.

At one moment, the pain and grief that comes from grasping becomes as clear as a blue sky – we have grasped without conscious thought. We have programmed ourselves to grasp, want and crave.  We have been tense and tight due to the many years where we thought that holding onto something – or someone – would keep them from leaving, changing, ending.

At that moment, we discover death arising from our own grasping, craving and desires. Death of moments of beauty. Death of friendships. Death of honest work. Death of our own health. Death of life itself.

In relaxation lies life. In detachment lies flow. In releasing tension lies peace.

“The only thing that Ueshiba Sensei taught of true value was how to relax”
~
Koichi Tohei

“Address the imbalance without grasping for an outcome”
– Ken McLeod

During a recent meditation sitting, I was struck by the persistence of the grasping mind, the grasping heart and the grasping body. At no time did the three subside, each trading off each other the duty of disrupting the silence and the emptiness of the pure moment. At some moments, all three collaborated to take the flank and attempt a full frontal attack. The issue with the experience was not the incessant attacks – we are bombarded daily, hourly, presently, by incessant assailants – it was the quality of the attack, the texture of the attack, the vibration of the attack.

Stickiness. Grasping stickiness.

I don’t know of a better way to describe the quality that the three assailants expressed. They each had a grasping stickiness to them, as if they were motivated by desire and a wanting to be connected, stuck, glued, to the pure moment. In doing so, they would inevitably prevent the pure moment of perception from occuring, prevent zanshing from manifesting.

“Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go.”
— Herman Hesse

Attachment. Attachment is another way to describe it. Each of the three assailants had a quality, a texture of attachment, a stickiness like when you get used gum stuck between your fingers – a sticky, stretchy texture which does not easily let go, and the more you scrub and try to detach from it, the more it gums up, and becomes even stickier.

The more I attempted to pry them away, the stickier they became, the more incessant they were in attaching.

So I stopped grasping. I stopped being sticky in return. I stopped being attached to the assailants who had a desire to be attached to me.

I stopped. Simply stopped. Simple, yes. Easy, no.

At that moment, wonderfully unexpected sensations manifested. Connection. Wholesome, deep, simple connection.

I observed a connection with the mind which ceased to judge, expect, or demand it to be or do more than the mind can be or do.

I observed a connection with the heart which ceased to fear the emotions, the comfort, the security, which the heart is sometimes unable to recognize or accept.

I observed a connection with the body which revealed the body as it was, revealed its strengths and weaknesses, and revealed the impermanent, almost temporary, nature of the balance which is a healthy body.

With such simply elegant connections, rather than grasping attachment, stickiness, wanting – a surprisingly pleasing discovery.

Acceptance. Acceptance of connection over attachment. Revelation of connections, large and small, far and wide, past and future. Connections without desire, without stickiness, without wanting, without grasping. Connections without attachment.

Is this maybe a description, an interpretation of what Sensei Bussell terms “detach from all”?

Detaching from all, non-attachment, does not mean no connection. Quite the opposite, it means full, unbridled connection, mental, spiritual, emotional and spiritual.

In Aikido, coordination, harmony of our mind, body and spirit is harmony which maintains, expands and enriches our connection in every moment – without stickness, without grasping, without attachment. On the mat, magic, true magic, occurs when such attachement-free connections manifest, and ki, the essence of the universe, flows freely.

Become increasingly mindful of sticky, attachment-laden connections, at the mental, emotional, physical or spiritual level. Chose no connection over connections with attachment.

Practice detaching from all. Practice connecting without attachment.

Practice. Always.

“Ki flows to where it is needed in your life the way water flows downhill. Ki doesn’t live in memories or anticipation…”
-R. Moon

“…‘zanshin’, which I translate as learning without end. It means on-going attentiveness and connection. For this study I have chosen to translate it into English as ‘listening’…,”

~ R.Moon, The Power of Extraordinary Listening

listening. we are nothing but listening.

we listen to the colors of the setting sun, the roundness of a freshly picked apple, the rapid scouring of a rabbit across our lawn, the darkness of the night sky and the brightness of a camera’s flash. we hear the aroma of freshly blooming flowers, the fumes of a young man’s car, the perfume she wears on that first date, the tea which brings solace after a harsh meeting. we hear the fresh herbs that savour our favourite dish, the sweetness of a decadent dessert, the freshness of raw vegetables, the lightness of spring water. we listen to the ruffling of leaves in fall, the scuffing of a teenager’s hurried walk, the warmth of a singer’s voice, the dripping of a tap. we listen to the peaceful embrace of a child, the needing grasp of a spouse’s hand, the reconnection of a friend’s hug, the warming comfort of our childhood blanket.

all of our senses, awake and aware, are but listening. observing, perceiving, subtle, acute.
every moment, waking or not.

in listening, there is no response. no reaction. there is only listening. perception. observation.

of late, i’ve come to respect and accept that some senses are more accommodating, more comfortable with the simple act of listening. but all senses struggle with finding the harmony of simply being with whatever is being heard, simply being with full attention, with mindful attention.

There is no truth. There is only perception.

~ Gustave Flaubert

in some moments, sounds are simply sounds, and we do not jump, startle, or attach to the smashing of a cup, the slamming of a door, the honking on a quiet street, the silence during a tense meeting.

in some moments, light is simply light, and we do not glance harshly, attach, or look away from the tears of a grieving husband, the harshness of a stranger’s stare, the warmth of a colleague’s smile, the indifference of a neighbour’s regard.

in some moments, aromas are but molecules which nerve endings detect, and we do not melt with desire to the aroma of our favourite dessert, cringe to the smell of foul foods, or become irritated by the disruptive scent of someone’s most loved perfume.zanshin

some moments, so many moments, are but physical sensations triggered by infinite nerve endings permeating our body, to which we do not scratch the itch, we do not worry ourselves sick over the slight tightness in our chest, we do not become addicted to the melting feeling of another’s touch, or tighten in reaction to a sudden burst of cold wind.

all these sounds are but vibrations, vibrations of light and moving molecules of air, vibrations of sensory cells charging and discharging, vibrations of skin and nerves and muscles fibres and sinews. just vibrations, large and small, high and low, near and far.

infinite vibrations, near and far, bombard our senses every moment of our lives.

some vibrations are more difficult to hear and listen to: our own reaction, thoughts, feelings. these are mental sensations, mental secretions, mental vibrations, which, unlike all other sensations, originate within the mind. as such, perceiving, observing, listening deeply to these mental vibrations requires discipline, patience, detachment – a practice beyond simple will power – a practice rooted in silence and meditation, still and in movement. aikido is meditation in movement.

listen to these mental vibrations the same as you would a rainfall, leaves of a tree in a wind storm, or a setting sun. no thinking or doing can prevent such events from occurring. so observe. listen.

listen as the vibration arises. listen as the vibration departs.

zanshin is listening. zanshin is beyond listening. zanshin is pure perception and non-attachment in listening. zanshin is attention with pure presence, no past, no future, only the vibrations in the infinite space that is the present moment.

zanshin is detachment from all, but not by rejecting all. zanshin is acceptance of all. zanshin just is.

zanshin is inviting the ki of the universe to flow freely into all the senses – sight, sound, smell, taste, physical sensations, and mental sensations. zanshin is inviting ki to flow out of all senses. zanshin is taking up ki slack of the universe.

let ki flow through your senses.

listen to ki flow through your senses.

listen.

How do I experience what is before me and remain at peace…

~Ken McLeod

To expound and propogate concepts is simple, to drop all concepts is difficult and rare. A quiet mind is all you need. All else will happen rightly, once your mind is quiet.

~nisargadatta maharaj

Depression is the result of overly living in my head, in the mind. It is a disease that results from the mind being the only instrument of managing, living and loving life.

Relationships that are only mental ones, that only live in our heads, will be conditional, for our respective thoughts, opinions, judgements, aversions and adversions will change over time – and if the only basis for the relationship is alignment of those elements, then we are exposed to having nothing but conditional relationships.

If our relationships are based on harmony of mind, body and spirit, then we can see the commonalities that we both share. The air we both need for breath. The heat we both need for comfort. The light we both need for awareness. The foods we both need for life. The spirit, ki, we both need for existence. The basic needs we both experience that influences our choices. The ignorance and insecurities we all struggle to accept. The ambitions and desires we each strive to mitigate. In such a relationship, the link is deeper, and the dependence is less on harmony of mental secretions, and on spiritual harmony – love that is because you and I share life, pure and simple.

Love without an object – that object being the others or the context’s thoughts, desires, judgements, aversions, adversions, body shape or colour, other sensory emissions, actions, words spoken or written, or any other secretions that another can elicit.

Love without an object does not depend on any of my emotions triggered by any of the above – my response, irrespective of the sensations triggered in me, remains calmness, stillness, acceptance, openness, genuine and deep curiosity, needlessness to change ANY aspect the moment – and love.

Love that is fully taking, and fully giving to the moment, and to the context, items and people who make the moment.

Such love does not live nor can exist in the mind.

It exists when harmony of mind, body and spirit are one.

That harmony is, like the body, susceptible to disease and harm from the world which surrounds us.

Aikido, not the physical or mechanical form, but the deeper, spiritual and integral aikido, immunizes us, and maintains the harmony.

Aikido, maybe is not love, but is the prescription for love.

… 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