The following is fully inspired by, and heavily borrowed from, the 5 principles of a profound workday, courtesy of Leo Babauta. I highly recommend Leo’s words for inspiration and solace.

‘Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.’ ~Laozi

The Profound Visit to the Dojo

1. Empty: In Silence and Solitude. When your mind is full, you have no room for change. When your thoughts are full of noise, you have no space to think.

Empty your mind. When you have an empty mind, you can fill it with anything. Only with this emptiness can you create something truly different.

Clear your thoughts. Find space for silence and solitude. With this space you’ll be free, free to see the truth, to create beauty.

2. Slow and Mindful. Rushing paradoxically leaves us with less time — speed means we don’t pay attention, and so the moments on the mat disappear rapidly and leave us before we notice.

Slow down, and pay attention. You’ll be able to focus on your movements more, and though you’ll do less, you’re technique will be more profound.

Be mindful of every movement, small or large. Enjoy every motion.

3. Profoundly Creative. Don’t use the gift of your visit to the mat for mindless repetitive tasks. Don’t end the visit with nothing to show for your work.

Start each visit by creating. Make the space at the beginning of your visit to the mat to create, before you get lost in rushing, urgency, or the desire to see the end of the class.

Create something amazing. Delight your Sensei and your ukes. Leave them amazed, wanting to not end the session. for you.

4. Simplified. The principles for a profound visit to the dojo might seem difficult to most people, because there just isn’t the instinct or desire to do less. The only way to create this type of visit to the dojo is to simplify.

It’s the key to everything else. Subtract. Pare everything down to its essence.

What’s on your mind right now? What are the principles that actually need to be present in your practice? Remove everything else.

What do you do every time you visit the dojo? How many of those things can be eventually pared down? Be simplified?

Simplify, and you’ll be able to find emptiness, solitude, silence, slowness, and mindfulness in your practice.

5. Flexible and Natural. This type of visit to the dojo might start to sound rigid, but in truth when you create space you also allow yourself the flexibility to deal in the moment with any change, any attack.

The natural flow of things is change, and if we are rigid we aren’t able to deal with changes. We become frustrated, anxious, angry, flustered.

If instead we have no expectations of what will happen each visit, and deal with changes as they come, we let go of that frustration and anxiety.

Be open to whatever happens. Be flexible. Deal with change as it happens, and you’ll find true profoundness doesn’t come from within us, or from external sources, but in the space between the two.

It comes from the eternal space between all things.

It comes from the universal Ki.

‘Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.’ ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

“There is a very simple secret to being happy. Just let go of your demand on this moment.

Any time you have a demand on the moment to give you something or remove something, there is suffering. Your demands keep you chained to the dream state of conditioned mind. The problem is that when there is a demand, you completely miss what is now.

Letting go applies to the highest sacred demand, and even to the demand for love. If you demand in some subtle way to be loved, even if you get love, it is never enough. In the next moment, the demand reasserts itself, and you need to be loved again. But as soon as you let go, there is knowing in that instant that there is love here already.

The mind is afraid to let go of its demand because the mind thinks that if it lets go, it is not going to get what it wants – as if demanding works.

This is not the way things work.

Stop chasing peace and stop chasing love, and your heart becomes full. Stop trying to be a better person, and you are a better person. Stop trying to forgive, and forgiveness happens.

Stop and be still.”

~ Adyashanti

In order to see a fish you must watch the water

– Bodhidharma

… which inspires…

In order to see a man you must watch the Ki

– unfettered hara

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”

All that appears comes from an illusion of the mind and the mind itself is from beginningless time without inherent existence, free from the two extremes of manifestation and beyond all elaboration. To understand this nature and not to conceive of subjects and objects as really existing is a practice of the bodhisattva.

-Translation from Tokme Zangpo Thirty-seven Bodhisattva Practices

A recent practice session with the bokken revealed a truth that has started to redefine my interpretation of time and space, and my practice on both the cushion and the mat. One morning, following one hour of Vipassana mediation, I proceeded to reach for the bokken to simply swing the weapon for a few strokes in order to loosen the shoulders and upper body. After swinging the bokken for a few moments, I was struck by the awareness that each stroke was a metaphor for the absolute present moment – the only moment we truly have.

The bokken had been my training partner for over three years, and for the first time, its presence was felt more intently than ever. Unlike previous sessions where each stroke blended from one to the other, this time a new awareness arose.

Each stroke, each cut, was the manifestation of the present moment. No strokes came before. No cuts were to follow. The only cut that existed was the one being executed. Good or bad, swift or sluggish, tight or loose, each cut was done, observed, felt, sensed, then released. I was no longer attached to the previous cuts – proud of the good ones, upset with the bad ones. I was not attached to the cuts to come – worried about fatigue creeping into the movement, or the grip needing constant adjustment.

There was only the cut being executed. There was only the fraction of the second that it took to cut down. Only the present moment existed. defined by the brief motion of the cut.

A deep , peaceful detachment from the past and future emerged – with the full present moment being in the cut. One cut. One moment. The present became a pointed, infinite knife edge upon which all past slid away, and all future had yet to arrive.  Even the beginning and end of the cut became distinct, with each finite moment of the down stroke becoming increasingly transparent and existent by itself. The end of the cut was no longer subject to the quality of the beginning. The beginning of the cut was no longer concerned with how it was going to end.

In such a cut, there were no past errors or pride of success dictating movement, or no future desires or hesitations undermining the commitment – there was only the cut.

The point of power is always in the present moment.

– Louise L. Hay

Putting down the bokken, the exercise then surprisingly continued with the breath – where the breath became the sword, the action of the cut. With each in-breath – a raising of the sword. With each out-breath – the cut of the sword.  Each breath became like the cut of the bokken – detached from any previous breath, detached from any breath to come. Only the present breath was mindful, filled with awareness and ki. No past. No future. Only now.

One breath – one cut. No past , no future in the breath. Only the present breath.

In the mindful present moment, only one cut can be executed. Only one breath can be taken. It is all that we have when you stop and deeply examine the present moment. One breath to take. One cut to make.

There is nothing to attach to when you fully immerse yourself in the cut. There is only the cut.

Each breath is a cut within the eternal silence and nothingness that is our infinite existence.

One breath…one cut.

Above all, we cannot afford not to live in the present. He is blessed over all mortals who loses no moment of the passing life in remembering the past.

-Henry David Thoreau

“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

When you plant seeds in the garden, you don’t dig them up every day to see if they have sprouted yet. You simply water them and clear away the weeds; you know that the seeds will grow in time. Similarly, just do your daily practice and cultivate a kind heart. Abandon impatience and instead be content creating the causes for goodness; the results will come when they’re ready.
– Thubten Chodron, “Meditator’s Toolbox”

Abandon impatience. Abandon the attachment to the quick, rapid reward that society so excellently provides us, in the name of progress and growth, for it is false growth. Abandon the belief that mastery is a destination, and accept it more as a journey – mastery as journey, not as destination.

On the mat, if there is one lesson that has served me well off the mat, it is unlearning impatience. Impatience with others who are either too slow to learn or to quick to wait up. Impatience with concepts too complex to decipher, or too simple to impress. Impatience with techniques who should always work, and techniques who never work.

But of all the impatiences that have visited me on the mat, the most revealing is the impatience with self. Impatience with my own abilities, physical and coordinated, arising from an inability to master a movement at first glance. Impatience with my spirit, wanting to capture and grow, without giving it the time to evolve, naturally, spontaneously. Impatience with the mind, root of most if not all impatience, who thinks that thinking can result in all mastery, given enough intellectual prowess and commitment.

Foolish was I to ever think that impatience would triumph over the natural ways of the universe, and that I would be immune to the struggles and barriers that have come before all those who have chosen the path of aikido.

Your practice should be strengthened by the difficult situations you encounter, just as a bonfire in a strong wind is not blown out, but blazes even brighter.
– Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, “Teachings on the Nature of Mind and Practice”

Aikido, and the time and space of the mat, is a mirror. A mirror that reveals when you are not centred, balanced and coordinated. A time and space that reveals clearly that one’s difficulties are nothing but a mirror of one’s weakness and challenges that require continuous practice.

As with every mirror, it presents itself with absolute patience, for the mirror cannot be without patience. It has infinite patience for it exists but to reflect. Reflect the absolute moment, without past or future, absolute moment with form and without form, an absolute moment with emptiness, stillness and silence as it’s only truth.

In such absolute truth, impatience is revealed in its fullest furry, with nowhere to migrate but upon the canvas of the spirit. Through aikido, full and complete harmony of mind, body and spirit is practiced, where impatience is cornered by the stillness, revealed by the silence, and quenched by the emptiness. One cannot be impatient with true emptiness, stillness and silence.

“Do not become annoyed when faced with difficulties. To do so merely adds difficulty to difficulty and further disturbs your mind. By maintaining a mind of peace and nonopposition, difficulties will naturally fall away.”
– Master Sheng-yen, “Nonopposition”

Impatience is fuelled by our past regrets, our past attachments, the roots of our history and unfed desires. Impatience is harboured by our future wishes, our unbridled and hungry ambitions, our rational and irrational fears. Impatience is not possible in the absolute, infinite moment, for nothing exists in the infinite emptiness, the endless silence, the absolute stillness.

When impatience presents itself, it is a symbol of one’s loss of absolute presence in the infinite moment. When desire, fear or greed defines our breath, we have given impatience a home. When time becomes the absolute master of our thoughts and emotions, we have given the past and future authority over the present. In these rushing moments, impatience becomes the current within which our existence and value is defined. Lost is the balance and harmony arising from the absolute presence, and chained we become to the illusions that mind, body or spirit creates to sustain the current of impatience.

Only is stillness, silence and emptiness can the current of impatience cease. To arrive at such a place, we must remember that we are not, nor ever have been, in the current of impatience – we are the current of impatience, unable to release from the attachment to the comfort that the strength and energy that the current brings.

“We suffer because we marry our instinctive aversion to pain to the deep-seated belief that life should be free from pain. In resisting our pain by holding this belief, we strengthen just what we’re trying to avoid. When we make pain the enemy, we solidify it. This resistance is where our suffering begins.”
– Ezra Bayda, “When It Happens to Us”

If we are the current, and not in the current, how does the mat teach us about releasing the current, not becoming the current? It teaches us by showing us how very little can trigger the current, how very little can create the small currents that grow into larger current, eventually engulfing us whole. It shows us how the slightest motion of another can trigger tension and vibrations in us that unleash currents of regret or desire. It shows us that the slightest tension in our own body, the smallest fears and desires within the deepest recesses of our mind, or the slightest ripples in the ocean where our spirit ebbs and flows – all can contribute to the sustaining the currents of impatience, by way of removing us from the stillness silence and emptiness of the infinite moment.

Our practice on the mat is the practice of life, but is no match for the practice outside of the dojo. Life, in its infinite depth and scope, is the ultimate uke, able to trigger all unforeseen reactions at any moment, for an infinite number of options by which to respond.

In all instances, only one response is truth – response with harmony of mind, body and spirit, response from the infinite present of stillness, silence and emptiness.

Only in silence, stillness and emptiness can the seeds of patience grow, for patience is silence, stillness and emptiness.

“We should be especially grateful for having to deal with annoying people and difficult situations, because without them we would have nothing to work with. Without them, how could we practice patience, exertion, mindfulness, loving-kindness or compassion? It is by dealing with such challenges that we grow and develop.”
– Judy Lief, “Train Your Mind: Be Grateful to Everyone”

We need to give up something. We can’t have it all. We can’t try to layer wisdom on top of confusion. The spiritual path is about what we give up, not what we get.

– Tim Olmsted, “The Great Experiment”

On the mat, there are many days where the struggle to not use muscle becomes an endless frustration. Old habits of muscles and brawn creep in, which inevitably leads to my inability to exercise the technique. After several years, I’ve developed, patiently, an ever increasing awareness of the energy I use, and when I’ve gone beyond the balance point – the point where tension now reigns, and any technique will be fruitless against a much stronger Uke.

At that point, one of three things are possible. No more, no less.

Using more strength is evidently the choice by many who have learnt, as I did, that more muscle is the recipe to any stiff door, stubborn jar or rude guy in a crowded bus. This option is not without its proponents, although I have experienced once too often that there is always someone stronger, someone with more strength. Using the tug-of-war metaphor, we get even more back into it.

In the completely opposite direction is retreating, becoming soft and limp, a form of running away from the circumstance. Although there are places and times when retreating becomes the necessary course of action, such is not the case when in a situation where uke is clearly before us. In the tug-of-war metaphor, we drop the rope, or give it so much slack that we might as well just drop it.

This leaves us with the option most difficult to learn and accept, the option of giving up, but not giving up. In this option, the rope is relaxed to the point where tension becomes less, but never slack…simply not sending signals to the other. At this point of harmony with uke, there is no slack in the rope, but there is no tension either. Just connection, harmony, blending.

The more we can get the self out of the way, the more clearly we can see the effect of our thoughts, words, and action upon ourselves and others.

– Andrew Olendzki, “Moral Health”

To achieve such a point of balance, harmony and blending, we must become invisible. Not the physical kind, but invisible to the tension and pressures that uke will exert in order to return tension to the moment. We must become transparent to the attempts to re-engage our physical and mental commitment, in essence, stay void of uke’s efforts of reattaching us to the moment.

We must get the self out of the way, get the self detached from the getting, the wanting, the desired outcome. We become transparent and nothingness to uke’s charge. We must surrender and give up getting to somewhere. We are always where we need to be, in the absolute present moment, as long as we remain aware of the fullness of the present.

At the point of balance, harmony and blending, there is silence, there is stillness, and there is nothingness. Although the world strives to fill our space with noise, attractions and desires, there is no room for any of this when we are at the point of harmony. In tension, there is much upon which the world can attach, much into which the body can grasp, much with which the mind can preoccupy itself. In slack, there is no contact, no link, no blending, and so the mind seeks to connect, the body grasps, and the spirit wavers.

Only in the moment of balance, the point where the slack has been fully removed, but tension is not given a home, does harmony manifest. At that point, a vibration becomes our state, a vibration like the vibration of the universe – subtle, profound and ubiquitous. Too much tension, and the vibration stops. Too much slack, and the vibration does not transmit – dampened by the loose rope.

Only when slack is fully taken, and tension is not given, does the vibration conduct. Calm, constant and steady contact, without tension and with no slack, leads to the awareness that is to know the infinite truth.

O’Sensei taught how to relax – not limp, weak and without tone, like the slack rope – but relaxed being without undue or excessive tension – without wanting or getting.

A point of harmony, balance and blending where one gives up getting, without giving up.

“But if your mind is calm and constant, you can keep yourself away from the noisy world even though you are in the midst of it. In the midst of noise and change, your mind will be quiet and stable.”

– Suzuki, zen mind beginner’s mind

A 2009 blog post from George Ledyard – one of the most interesting I’ve read regarding the “spirit” of self-defence. Enjoy!

Dan
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Let us look at the nature of “Self Defense”. There are two kinds of self defense and one is merely a distortion of the other. The first Self Defense is authentic. It is the evolutionary, biological right of any animal to defend its life and those of its family or social group. With humans this involves the development of certain skills coupled with the addition of technical development. The skills and technology of True Self Defense are simply an extension of those developed for survival over hundreds of thousands of years. So True Self Defense is the defense of the physical body when under some threat.

The distorted form of Self Defense is not authentic and is the result of illusion. It is based on the instinct for self preservation on which authentic Self Defense is founded but it is distorted by the illusion of self identity under which most people operate. In other words from the time of our birth we develop a series of self images which we put forward as “who we are.” These self images or “primary selves” are who we consciously believe we are and reflect the ways in which we have learned through our personal experience to exist in the world.

The problem is that this is not really who we are. There is a whole series of “disowned selves” who from infancy we have learned to put away from our consciousness. The more we identify with these “primary selves” the more energy it takes to maintain that incomplete self image, that illusion of who we are.

So what we do as human beings is to devote most of our energy to trying to maintain our false, conditioned construction of ourselves. Anything that threatens that sense of identity feels like a threat to our very survival (whereas it is only a threat to the survival of the false identity). We seek out companions and experiences that support our false sense of self and yet at the same time there is a counter drive for us to look inward towards our deeper nature.

All aggressive behavior that is not True Self Defense is the result of this false identification with the mental constructs that create our “primary selves” and the fundamental reluctance and fear we have to recognizing that we are not who we maintain we are. We will distance from, attack, divorce, etc. anyone who threatens our fundamental sense of who we are and we tend to seek out people and activities that reinforce the identity we put forth to the world (and ourselves). To have this sense of self threatened is experienced as a survival issue by the conditioned self.

So most of what we see as “Self Defense” is the distorted use of aggression in defense of false notions of who we are. This can lead to personal violence or it can manifest as violence between social groups, fighting to maintain their collective self illusions.

…most of what we see as “Self Defense” is the distorted use of aggression in defense of false notions of who we are…

So the only way that we can be sure that we engage only in “True Self Defense” is to get in touch with our True Selves, the unconditioned essential Identity that underlies all these “primary” and “disowned” selves. Only when we cease falsely identifying with our illusions of who we are can we be free of the need to “defend” the false self.

O-Sensei’s vision of what Aikido should be is just this. He looked to create the true “Spiritual Warrior.” He stated that “True victory is Self victory.” This victory is nothing less than experiencing who we really are, not as separate little identities which require constant defense to maintain but as our True Selves which are an integral part of the undifferentiated Universe.

Aikido practice is designed to teach “True Self Defense” while it simultaneously seeks the cessation of the distorted False Self Defense. It can only do that if there is an internal component to the practice.

Students can not, as most tend to do, seek out training that merely acts as a reinforcement of who they already think they are. Many dojos are nothing more than mutual admiration societies which allow like minded individuals to not experience the discomfort that comes with the need to let go of the false self images that we al carry. At the same time other dojos are merely places in which fearful people mutually develop an illusion of strength through tough martial practice but never confront the fundamental need to let go of these defense in order to make fundamental change.

So even as we study the techniques of True Self Defense we must simultaneously be putting our attention on developing the direct experience of our True Natures. Until the time at which all human beings have experienced their true selves there will be a need for the martial techniques of True Self Defense but it is only as Spiritual Warriors who have done battle with their own internal demons that we can operate on this level which is the “Spirit of Loving Protection” of which the Founder spoke.

– George Ledyard
Posted 9th August 2009

‘When the wind of change blows, some people build walls and other people build windmills.’
Chinese Proverb

Walls are solid, windmills are both solid and empty – hence why they work. Windmills are not only empty…they are both empty and not empty. Walls are not empty. In the emptiness is the space and openness to be within the wind of change, and flow, be in harmony, with the change that, along with the emptiness, are the only two permanent truths. The truth of infinite change, and the truth of infinite stillness, silence and emptiness.

The permanence of emptiness and non-emptiness, stillness and non-stillness, nothingness and non-nothingness.

Resistance to change is the result of ignorance of the absolute truth lying within the infinite stillness and nothingness. Once the infinite stillness and nothingness comes into full awareness, change of any sort, change of all sorts, is possible. Even death, the ultimate form of change, is warmly accepted and allowed, as death of any form is but the truth of the universe, the impermanent nature of all, within the infinite, timeless emptiness and silence of eternity.

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