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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.

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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, (http://www.mit.edu/~rei/spir-aikido.html), 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 (rei@mit.edu)

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

~Morihei Ueshiba

Fear.

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

“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

Even in close relationships, spending time with a friend, even while helping others or doing other good works, if your attention is on what you are feeling, on what you are getting out of it, then you see these relationships as transactions. Because your focus is on how you are feeling, consciously or unconsciously you are putting yourself first and others second. This approach disconnects you from life, from the totality of your world.

– Ken McLeod, “Forget Happiness”

Thoughts of where, why, and how I place my attention has dominated my thinking of late. You could say that my attention has been on my attention.

Through these reflections, I have started to consider that there are two minds, two places from which this attention can come: the remembering mind, and the experiencing mind; thanks to Daniel Kahneman for triggering this thought thread.

The remembering mind is the self defined by the mind of memories – past and future. Memories of past experiences, past moments, past wishes and past regrets. The remembering mind is the mind that lives away from the present, for it longs for, and sometimes lives from, the past pleasant memories. Similarly, it also seeks to avoid remembering or admitting to past unpleasant or undesired memories.

As a result of its attachment to memories, good and bad, the remembering mind is also the mind of the future, the mind consumed by trying to recreate past pleasant memories, or consumed by trying to avoid the creation of unpleasant memories. The remembering mind, ironically, can spend more time consumed by what might or could be, and to its own detriment, fail to recall or learn from past memories.

The remembering mind, I believe, is possibly the dominant mind of today. It is the mind overly influenced by our internal thoughts, aversions, adversions, or imagination. It is the mind which the external world seeks to manipulate, influence & control through imagery, illusion and beauty. The remembering mind is the mind of nostalgia, the mind of ambition, the mind of revenge, the mind of fear.

We have a very narrow view of what is going on.
– Daniel Kahneman

Unlike the remembering mind, the experiencing mind is the mind without time or space. It is the mind that observes and listens, without filters. It is the mind that senses all the senses, physical and mental. It is the mind that exists in the moment, the infinitely thin present moment. It is the mind, unlike the the remembering mind, which can detach itself from all – emotions, desires, aversions, fears. It is the mind that experiences flow, when flow is experienced.

The experiencing mind is, I suspect, could be considered the mind that many refer to as the physical mind, the mind within the body, the seat of the mind…the hara. The hara as the experiencing mind opens a myriad of ideas that are worth considering.

With the hara as the experiencing mind, the hara becomes the seat from which all experience and moments are observed. It gives the hara the lead in how we interact with the world, and how we can respond. Unlike the remembering mind, which is the realm of reactions, the experiencing mind can be viewed as the realm of responding. With the hara considered the experiencing mind, the five principles of aikido can be viewed in a different light.

Being at one point, the hara becomes the infinite point within us where all experiences are first received and sensed. It is the point where the remembering mind serves the experiencing mind. It is the point where sensations and experiences are pure, unfiltered and accepted. It is the point from which all experiences are initiated, without ambition, fear or tension.

Being with weight underside, the hara becomes the experiencing mind, grounded in what is, accepting the vibrations and energy that is all encompassing, resonating with the source of all harmony and balance. The experiencing mind is fully open, observant and accepting.

Being fully relaxed, the hara becomes the calmness, silence and space within which the experiencing mind breathes and floats. Tension is the realm of the remembering mind, for tension comes from desires or fears, ambitions or prejudice. The experiencing mind is the realm of no tension, no currents, just calm waters.

Being detached from all, the hara is the experiencing mind devoid of space, time and outcomes. It is devoid of a path, concerned not with the goals, ambitions or desires, nor the aversions or fears that can be deeply ingrained within our self. It is a remembering mind devoid of influence or coercion from outside of our self, foe or allie. It is a space where all that is experienced – memories, desires, fears, thoughts, opinions – are but experiences, like the wind that flutters, or the waves that crest and fall.

Being with the extension of Ki, the remembering mind is the hara immersed in the infinite ocean of Ki, the energy upon which all creation is born, the energy by which all comes and goes. Being with Ki places the remembering mind in touch with the infinite spirit, the endless source of light and flow from which each moment is defined. Each moment is ultimately the manifestation of Ki – a manifestation the experiencing mind can be called upon to deeply sense and be fully aware of.

The experiencing mind, like the hara…

Is being
Nothing else
Just being
Just the experiencing self

Through the experiencing mind, through the hara…

Space is infinite
Matter is nothingness, empty of all but Ki
Time is an illusion, the creation of the remembering mind

The notion of time is a wonderful place to close this reflection. If the remembering mind is the realm of memories past, and the desires and aspirations of memories to come, then arguably the remembering mind must live within time. It is the fabric, the canvas upon which time makes sense.

The experiencing mind, however, only lives within the present moment, the experiences of sensations, thoughts, and feelings. The experiencing mind resides within the very narrow sliver of time where time becomes the present moment, where it becomes non-time. If so, what is the present moment? Is it still time? Is it void of time? So have said it lasts about three (3) seconds either side of this exact moment. Others have said it is 1/75th of a second long – and hence below our threshold of common observation. Others think it lasts a few minutes either side of this exact moment – correlated with short term memory.

I like the definition that is given to the word Setsuna (刹那), a Japanese word meaning “a moment; an instant”. The word comes from a Buddhist term: せつな meaning “split second”. You can reflect on what “split second” might make most sense for your practice.

These days, I visualize my experiencing mind living within about 6 seconds – about 3 seconds either side of this absolute exact moment…and practicing to stay within these 6 seconds.

When I wander beyond those three seconds either side, I become aware that my remembering mind may be gaining influence over the experiencing mind, leading to ego clinging, attachment to self, and believing the illusion that our memories past and future is our existence.

In those moments, I surrender, I detach, and I accept that the experiencing mind is the core of the self, and practice – practice returning to those 6 seconds that are my present moment.

Spiritual change is precisely a process that is bigger than you. You don’t control it. You surrender to it. You don’t reinvent yourself through spiritual work. You face yourself, and then you must let go of all the ghastly things you find. But there is no end to these ghastly things. They keep coming. The ego is a bottomless pit of suckiness. And so you finally let go of the self that clings to itself (one definition of ego). True freedom comes when ego goes.

– Shozan Jack Haubner, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Enlightenment”

Every moment in life is absolute in itself. That’s all there is. There is nothing other than this present moment; there is no past, there is no future; there is nothing but this. So when we don’t pay attention to each little this, we miss the whole thing.
– Charlotte Joko Beck, “Attention Means Attention”

Aikido can only be done in the present moment, if you put the mind beyond the past horizon or the future horizon, aikido becomes nothing but physical movements. Only in pure and infinite presence can one point be kept, weight underside be felt, ki extended and pure relaxation found. In that pure and infinite moment, future and past can come to visit, without disrupting the balance and centering that occurs in the present moment.

When we face the limitations of our power and control, all we can skillfully do is bow to that moment. The conceit of self is challenged and eroded not only by the circumstances of our lives but also by our willingness to meet those circumstances with grace rather than with fear.
– Christina Feldman, “Long Journey to a Bow”

O’Sensei was repeatedly quoted as saying that the purpose of Aikido was masakatsu agatsu, katsu ayame – true victory is self victory, right here, right now. Through masakatsu agatsu, the conceit of self is challenged and eroded by the eternal truth which is pure perception of endless, infinite emptiness, forever present in the present moment – pure presence. With eternal truth, one meets circumstances with grace rather than with fear.

A hallmark of a genuine Buddhist practitioner is a truly peaceful mind. Advocating peace is not enough. One must have a mind that remains unflustered and nonaggressive even in extreme circumstances, including when one is provoked.
– Rita M. Gross, “Buddhism and Religious Diversity”

With eternal truth, response becomes a choice, and reactions, both emotional and mental, are no more. Pure perception of the eternal present becomes the peaceful mind, a mind manifesting from harmony of the physical, mental and spiritual self.

Maybe we think that nirvana is a place where there are no problems, no more delusions. Maybe we think nirvana is something very beautiful, something unattainable. We always think nirvana is something very different from our own life. But we must really understand that it is right here, right now.
– Maezumi Roshi, “Appreciate Your Life”

The eternal present is the infinite emptiness that surrounds physical, mental and emotional secretions. Delusions and suffering come from planting secretions in past memories or future desires. Secretions of the body, mind and heart cannot grow in the eternal present, for only emptiness exists, within which purity abides. Right here, right now, is the eternal present – katsu ayame.

If one puts his mind in the action of his opponent’s body, his mind will be taken by the action of his opponent’s body.

If he puts his mind in his opponent’s sword, his mind will be taken by that sword.

If he puts his mind in thoughts of his opponent’s intention to strike him, his mind will be taken by thoughts of his opponent’s intention to strike him.

If he puts his mind in his own sword, his mind will be taken by his own sword.

If he puts his mind in his own intention of not being struck, his mind will be taken by his intention of not being struck.

If he puts his mind in the other man’s stance, his mind will be taken by the other man’s stance.

What this means is that there is no place to put the mind.

~ Takuan Soho

Within the pure present and infinite emptiness, if one puts the mind in his past regrets, his mind will be taken by his past regrets. If he puts his mind in his future desires or fears, he mind will be taken by his future desires or fears.

Within the pure present and infinite emptiness, one cannot even put the mind one millisecond behind or ahead of the infinite present – otherwise, the mind will be taken by the past or the future. One must therefore not only be wary in what one puts the mind, but when – past or future.

With the mind in the pure and infinite emptiness of the present, the mind will have no place or time to go.

And harmony of mind, body and spirit will manifest.