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    Default ki lecture - "Letting Go"

    Ki Lecture given by my teacher in Germany.

    aloha,

    Tracy Reasoner
    www.hawaiikifederation.org

    Letting Go
    Duisburg, Germany
    May 2006
    C. Curtis Sensei

    There are two names for training: “keiko” and “shugyo”. Keiko means following literally the rules of training. When you go to pick up the sensei at his house, if he tells you to please come at 5:00, then 4:45 is not too early, and 5:05 is way too late. If I went to pick up Suzuki Sensei and he told me 5:00, then by 4:45 his would be sitting on his bench out front wondering where I am. So we have to be there early. “Early” is not early when it is to do with this kind of training. Keiko training means that when he tells you arrive at 5:00, you arrive at 5:00. Of course 5 minutes past five is not even keiko. This is not even training at all. But shugyo training is 4:45 arrival.

    No matter what you do, how you treat your life is how it will be; keiko or shugyo. We say “shinpo uchu rei kanno soku genjo”. This means how you treat life is how life treats you. How you say it will be is how it will be. Though this doesn’t necessarily mean “saying” with your words only, and not necessarily by your actions (though actions are important), and not even necessarily by what you think (although thinking is important). Thinking, speaking, and acting, reflects something deeper. Your actual state of being is important. So what this class here and this training that you do here is to you, depends upon how you treat it. Will it be keiko or will it be shugyo? In other words will it improve your technique only, or will you become a better human being? That is the real meaning of the difference between keiko and shugyo. It’s up to you. So…how you treat everything is everything.

    For instance, when we begin the class like this; let’s say class begins at 2:30. Then please be on the mat at least 10 or 15 minutes before 2:30, so you are ready to train. And 5 minutes before the teacher steps on the mat, you should be sitting like this, silently waiting. In this way, you prepare your condition properly, so that your condition when the teacher comes is ready. Since most people’s habit is to not necessarily be like this, then if this is you, please change your habit, even self consciously if you must, in the beginning. Then, in the end, life itself becomes different for you. Your life can be hum drum and common, or your life can be sacred. It is up to you. Every moment is how you treat that moment. If you want your training to be on the deepest level; if you want to transform your life; if you want to develop yourself in any kind of real way, then you must treat the training in that way. If you take the training for granted, or you are just almost there, then you will be just that. Everything you do, no matter what you do, treat it with the greatest respect. Then in that way you treat yourself with respect. And you will be amazed how much confidence you have automatically in everything you do.

    Now, you may think that business of being on the mat and ready to train sounds like a rule. So then, if you do this just because it’s a rule, that’s good, but that’s keiko. Keiko is better than no keiko. But it won’t be shugyo, real training, unless you do it for the right reason. Don’t just do it because I told you. You must do it for yourself, because you recognize what I am telling you. In other words, I am telling you this, for you to make a decision for yourself. I am not telling you this just to make a new rule for you. If you learn to treat the universe in this way, you’ll see that it is always treating you like this. You will notice the universe treats you like you are very important; like what you are engaged in is important; sacred. Sacred. Not religious. Sacred. Sacred is much more important than religious. This is not something religious, but something True, that has real meaning and value for you. So then your life has value.

    We may have the idea that Ki-Aikido is a form, or style, of Aikido. There’s Aikikai, there’s Yoshigasaki, there’s Yuishinkai, there’s Aiki-budo, there’s Ki-Aikido. Right? Of course. Only we are not doing what all those others are doing. This is not just another style of Aikido. This is something entirely different. It is important that you understand this. Because if you don’t understand this, then you may end up homogenizing your Aikido. You know, homogenizing is like they do to milk, taking all the character, all the risk and danger, as well as the original wholeness out of it. If you do this to Aikido, then pretty soon you will become just like everyone else. It is a good thing to become friends with and to interact with people that are different than you. Don’t misunderstand me. You certainly don’t want to be thinking, “My way is the only way. My school, my ethnic background, my culture is the only way.” However please don’t make the mistake of homogenizing what you are doing; in other words taking all the character out of what it is in an effort to be accepted by students and teachers in other schools who may train together with you. Ki-Aikido is not just one more kind of Aikido. Because the essence of what we are teaching here is not taught in other schools. It is not that there is something wrong with other schools. I am not saying that at all. I am saying that what we teach, what Tohei Sensei taught, is not taught in any other school. I am not saying our group is the only way. Any group can be a way. But understand that what we are working on here, you will not find in any other school. There may be nice things out there, but there is not this. So when you interact with others, make sure you don’t loose track of this essential element. We will explore just what that is as we go along here.

    Let’s use haku breath as an example:

    We conceive of this relative world. That’s how we perceive what it is to us. We conceive of it. In other words it is conceptual. It has up and down, over there and over here, back in time and forward in time, good and bad, birth and death, pleasant and unpleasant. For everything that arises there must be the opposite. We agree with this so much, that we feel compelled to take sides on issues. Since our habit is to see everything in this way, when we think of the relative universe and the Absolute universe, we tend to think of them as opposites. We conceive of there being the relative world, and then the Absolute universe somewhere else. But actually the Absolute universe and the relative universe are not separate at all. Absolute means all of this. Not that Absolute universe exists off and against the relative. No. The relative arises out of the Absolute and at the same time is pervaded by the Absolute. However our senses and therefore our relative mind don’t see things in that way. Therefore when we make haku breath, for instance, we tend to do it with our small, efforting mind and body; our relative consciousness. We use our small mind to make our body do something, because we think that we are separate from this Absolute, (It is somewhere else and we are here), and if we don’t get in there and make a big effort, nothing big will happen! If we understood that everything is pervaded by infinity, by the Absolute, then when we make haku breath, or cut bokken, or do anything, it will come from infinity and go to infinity. In other words, it will be a true expression of Reiseishin. It rises from beyond the One Point. It rises through the One Point and manifests through mind and body. Everything you do; every movement is like this. This is very important. Even if your action has a perfect form, this does not make it Aikido; this does not make it real, true, or essential. It must be manifested from original being. It must express Reiseishin.
    There is a lot of variation in the way people do haku breath. But mostly people just do it with their body. It can be done very loudly or very softly, but that doesn’t account for the quality of it; the source of it. Right now we are teaching haku breath very quietly. This is because it is much easier for you to see how to do it correctly if we do it quietly. It’s just like we teach kaisho, gyosho, sosho with techniques. When you are doing sosho, full speed technique, you often don’t notice that you are not being truly effective. You don’t notice that your uke is just falling for you. You don’t notice that you are faking it, to put it bluntly. But if you do kaisho, step by step, then what is, is revealed right away to you. We say that you see where your mind is. So this is to say that haku, techniques, bokken, oneness rhythm taiso, sokushin no gyo, and kiatsu are all basically one thing. We have all these different forms of manifesting. and they are all valuable and all show our nature to ourselves in different ways. But they are all only serving one purpose, which it to reveal this true nature. In other words, you can practice and practice (and I hope you do – please become very adept at everything you do), but this will not guarantee a true connection to Reiseishin. All of this repetition of forms just makes you a better communicator; a more polished vehicle to communicate something. Will this “something” be your small effort to be something separate and special, or will this be Reiseishin? Of course, if you don’t have any experience in Aikido, and you cannot cut or move well, and you are not adept in the way that you use your voice and articulate, then you are not going to be a very good communicator in any case. So you must practice form. We all know this already. This is true about everything. Usually you discover this for yourself, when you get to be very good at something. When you are a fine musician, athlete, etc., you discover this. But then usually in daily life, doing something other than what you are so good at, this doesn’t always translate. So the purpose of Tohei Sensei’s teachings in Aikido is to develop this understanding, so that you become a better human being in daily life, in other words, to be expressing Reiseishin in all things you do. All of this is to no point at all, if you merely become a “dojo expert”. Who cares? They don’t pay us money. There is no real reward for all of this training, except if you become a better husband, father, wife, sister, employer, employee, etc. This is the purpose of the training. So go ahead and develop the vehicle, but don’t get hung up on your expertise. Of course on the other hand don’t be shy of it either.
    The bottom line is, no matter what we are doing, no matter what the form of expression, we must be sure to be expressing our wholeness, our original nature; not our partialness. Tohei Sensei expresses this by saying we must not just be the tip of the iceberg, the part that sticks out of the ocean, but the much larger (in our case infinitely larger) part that is submerged beneath the waves.




    Bokken:

    One time we were cutting bamboo at a special workshop in Japan with Tohei Sensei. He was very disturbed because we were his main students, with much experience with him, and he felt that we should be able to cut the bamboo properly. However, we were evidently not cutting very well. And he was having a difficult time explaining to us what it was that he wanted. So he saw a young girl standing in the back of the dojo watching us, and he asked her to come up to him. She had never touched a bokken before, so he taught her right then, “This is how you cut. Just cut.” And she cut. Bam! She cut the bamboo very cleanly. He said to us, “You see? She can cut better than all of you. Because all of you are relying upon your experience; your expertise. Whereas she doesn’t know any better. She just performs right now, just simply.”
    Of course, if she came back the next day, and he wasn’t there to support her, she would not be able to cut at all. So you have to be able to repeat this kind of thing, but whenever you repeat it, it must be fresh and new.
    So of course, we need experience. Of course we need training. But don’t let the training account for your strength. You have to throw away that strength. True strength is the courage to stand there and not depend upon your own history. To act without seeking attention or reward.
    If you think about your career right now, in daily life, what job you have….if you can perform without seeking attention, praise, reward, money, you will have this freshness. And the more success you have, maybe the more difficult to let go of this seeking.

    I said before, please make your life sacred. Everything you do, make it the best. Even if you have what some people might call a “bad habit”, do it very well. Celebrate it. Make it special. Make it sacred.
    So this same thing applies, of course, to bokken. Before you pick up the bokken, how you think about that bokken is very important. I hope you don’t think it is just a piece of wood, carved to look like a sword…of course it is that, but it is much more than that. It is an extension of our very mind. This wooden sword is matter. How matter interacts with you, depends entirely upon you. It has nothing to do with the matter itself, as separate from you, but everything to do with your perspective, your attitude towards it. You know that is why, if I Keep One Point, you cannot lift me, but if I don’t, you can. The difference is perspective. I don’t weigh more. We cannot make this matter that makes up this body weigh more, at least not instantly. Just changing the way I think, changes the nature of this matter. This is done by what we call “maintaining stability”. We may also say, “Extending Ki”. So when we practice bokken, we are practicing extending Ki through the bokken. So the One Point and the tip of the bokken must be one; not separate. In other words, if you think that this is just a piece of wood that you pick up and swing, and that is separate from you, this has no meaning. So even if you are a beginner, and you never have cut bokken before in your life, if you treat it like it is a very special event, then even if your technique is immature, your cutting will be OK. What matters is what are you expressing when you do something. How deep do you go? This is the question. So, when you cut bokken, this is just like haku breath. You must express Reiseishin. In other words you must be expressing your roots, your soul, your source, your original condition. If you practice that way then you can have that from the beginning. Of course, this opens more and more. The more effective you get at the technique, the more you are able to do that. But on the other hand, you can be very experienced at cutting, and not let go of your attachment to that, and then there will be no Reiseishin.

    I think all of you know, but over the years, with Tohei Sensei and Suzuki Sensei, we developed 8 suburi for bokken. We begin by doing the kamai, or the positions, then second we do kiri kata, which is repetitive cutting, and then we do the 8 suburi where we bring these positions and these cuts together in different combinations and practice them with rhythm and counting.
    Even though we say that “kimei” means the point of cutting, or the point where the physical movement ceases, the mind must freely continue, or this is not truly kimei. Sheng….! OK. We all know “seishi” means when you have finished the technique you continue to extend Ki. But you also must know that seishi must continue at all times. It is not just at that moment of completion. As you are standing here listening to me you must be demonstrating seishi. In exactly this same way, every time you pick up the bokken you must be continually demonstrating kimei. Of course it is at some specific point that kimei strongly manifests. But at the same time if this is not in you when you pick up the bokken, then it will not be there when you cut. So even though when we do the kamai, the positions, there is no cutting, still we must be continually demonstrating kimei.
    Is this difficult? We are just so used to taking the “smallness” of our life for granted. It seems almost embarrassing to us to act with such kimei; with such seishi. “How can I be so big?!” you say. You have to give yourself up; we say “let go!” So that the kimei is flowing through you very powerfully at all times. Don’t hold back.
    What happens when you sacrifice something? It is big or not? What happens when you give up your money? It has big meaning if you are very wealthy and attached to that wealth. But if you have no money, it is has very limited meaning for you to “give up” your money.
    You must build kokyu through breathing practice. This takes sacrifice; letting go of attachment. Why do you think Tohei Sensei taught us this? He insisted that we must do this Ki Breathing practice every day.
    The key to Aikido is commitment; plain and simple. I said to Suzuki Sensei, “I want to be like you”. He said “Breathing one hour a day, every day, for the rest of your life, otherwise don’t come to me asking for me to teach you.” I had no idea what I was asking. Of course, I am very grateful now, but at the time I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. At the time he said, “What my teacher told me was that if I wanted to be like him I had to breathe minimum one hour a day. So this is what you must also do.” This is the kokyu. This is the life force. This is this integrative quality that pulls everything together.
    I’ll say this; In the beginning (meaning after only several years) it feels like it is building this tremendous bubble of passion within you, and you think, “Oh, this is really something.” I remember telling Suzuki Sensei about this and he just told me to shut up and wait. And of course, at some point, you realize then that this bubble thing is just your own conception. This is just your mind holding on to itself. Yes it is very powerful. Only it feels like you are something special. So when you let go of that, it can be very painful, because of how long it took to build this. It can be very difficult to let go of. But you can let go, and then there is no more bubble. Only now, the whole universe if filled with this. It is not something of yours. The “bubble” means it is mine; mine to use. But then you have to give that up. That’s what I meant. If you give up only a small amount of money, it has no meaning. So you build this tremendous bubble of kokyu through your breath practice…. This is like putting ten dollars in the bank every day. You try that. Someday you will be a millionaire. And then, after all of that discipline and commitment and sacrifice, then you give it all away. You will see what I mean. Painful, yes, but then there is a power that others cannot know. You will have some understanding that you can’t taste any other way. It’s impossible.

    You have here this opportunity to have something nice; to truly have this life. You have this opportunity. Others don’t have this opportunity; only you. Why? Somehow when you were born; somehow you made a deep promise. Deep inside you; someone made a promise. That’s why you are here. If you don’t fulfill that promise and you die, look out. You must be true to yourself. Everyone in this room knows exactly what I am talking about, somewhere within them; everyone. I am not scolding you; I am encouraging you. If I sound like I am scolding then never mind. You’re confused about what matters. So just be encouraged anyway!


    Ki Breathing:

    We have a human need to control things in this life. When we look out in the world it seems to be unbalanced; out of sync; chaotic. Which is true. It is out of balance, relatively. But that is an overlay only, one that we place on top of what we experience around us. It may seem to be chaotic, but it is supported by, made possible by, and pervaded by a perfect balance, or perfect order. Everything is in perfect order at all times. But what we see and experience doesn’t appear to be in perfect order, because we look at it from our small mind perception, with our small idea of order. In other words, we tend to be trapped in a relative view of things. When we only see the disorder, we call this “suffering”. But without conditions as they are, no change can happen. Things have to die for things to be born. That is how all change happens. So this apparent disorder which causes us to be sad, to worry and be anxiety ridden, is actually necessary in order for this world to grow, develop and change. What appears to be disorder from a narrow point of view, is actually order, if we look at the big picture. We can live with even perceiving it as disorder, as long as we don’t forget that it is only a partial, limited view, and that all of life is supported by a fundamental reality which is in perfect order. That’s another way of saying, “there is a reason for everything”.

    Of course, when we are practicing our forms in Aikido, it is very important to remember this. In the deepest sense, what is really important in Aikido is seeing things as they are, not just concentrating on some disharmony we may perceive. Because if you see only disharmony, you will attempt to correct it, to control it, not just outside of yourself, but in your personal view of your development. And if you become too controlling of yourself, trying to be perfect at this form, then you are caught up in this plus and minus, relative world of value; you are caught up in trying to control your destiny; to make yourself better. And this is not seeing things as they are. Because actually, beneath this apparent imperfection, your essential being is already perfect. You don’t need to be made better.
    Of course please continue with your practice. But make it a practice that always notices what is real. In other words, don’t just notice from small mind. Look from big mind; universal mind. Do you see? We struggle so much to try to understand, which is our effort to try to control things, but that mind that struggles to understand, can never understand. Its nature is that it cannot truly understand. It is a relative mind, so its knowledge is always relative. Looking from that mind, we can never see the whole picture. But we have a mind we call universal mind, that can understand; that can see the whole picture; the true purpose of everything. And in fact we can say that this universal mind already does know. It is made of knowing. In fact the only understanding that is necessary, is to understand just that. If you understand that, then you understand everything there is to understand. Just stop looking in the wrong direction.

    I hope that this makes sense to you, what I am pointing to, so that you don’t feel conflicted. Life is a paradox, so naturally this training we are doing is paradoxical, so you have to learn to live with this. This is nature. It doesn’t get any better than this. This is it. So any efforting to understand, and in so doing harmonize that which is out of harmony, is going to be fruitless. Because the one who is looking cannot understand by its nature. Of course, this small mind does not believe this for a minute. It thinks, because its mommy and daddy told it, that if you really really work hard, and really concentrate, you will understand. Of course you can learn things; like how to speak a language, how to do math, what is chemistry, how to cut the bokken, etc. But when you do learn something like that, you realize it doesn’t change anything fundamental. It is not a fundamental understanding. It doesn’t awaken you to your own inner condition. You don’t actually grasp this deeper level.

    The bottom line is learning who it is within you that is the knower. And once you see that, then you see that it wouldn’t do any good to try to control the activities of others, necessarily. When someone does something that is inappropriate or out of line or impolite or in some way careless or clumsy, then if you are the teacher, you have the responsibility to remind them of this, of course. But it is not the same as punishing them for this, or making them feel small. It is only that they are responding to the smallness in themselves, at that moment, so you may want to help them remember that. So maybe, sooner or later, the light goes on for the student. “Oh! I am supposed to be big mind all the time.” And this is dependable. But none of the manifestation can be depended upon. We do all these exercises, not for the exercises themselves to bring us happiness, but to show us that no matter how perfect we get, at cutting that bokken for instance, it is still something else that allows true cutting. That is why we say “let go”. Let go of all that efforting to make the perfect cut. But at the same time, if you don’t make that effort, if you don’t do that practice, and this is the paradox, there is no chance that it will ever happen to you.

    This may seem like a new subject, but it is very much wrapped up in what we have been talking about: Remember, what continues to move you forward, from a dojo dynamic perspective, is not just your familiarity with the techniques, but your commitment to others. This is a very important aspect of living in a community. We are always thinking, “What is the community giving to me? What does the dojo mean to me? What is Aikido? What am I getting from this Aikido?” Forget that! What are you giving to this dojo? What are you giving to the Aikido community? Why are we blessed to have you as a part of this group? What are you doing here? The teacher understands that, because he has committed his life to you. You must be that as well. You must commit your life. And not in some unreasonable way; just totally. (laughter) That’s different than in an unreasonable way. This is a paradox again; in action.

    What does it take to be a leader? Of course you have to love them to lead them. But also, you cannot be caring whether they like you or not. If you have a need to be loved, you cannot be a true leader. It cannot make any difference whether they love you or not, because at any point at least some of them won’t love you. And will you then let that stop you from loving and guiding them? This graduating level of development in Aikido, is a gradual level of learning to be a leader in society. We have been practicing “otomo”; service to others, not to the self. Even though you are actually spending your life serving others, of course you can’t truly serve others if you don’t love them. You cannot be effective if you care whether they like what you do or not; whether they think, ah, you’re cool or not. This is why we practice otomo, and why I say it is so important. Tohei Sensei taught Suzuki Sensei, Suzuki Sensei taught me, and I am teaching you, always, about otomo. This is the essential. This otomo is learning to care for another, when all he or she wants to do is care for him or her self. And of course we are all in this state, to some degree or other. And the fact is the world is in such an unbalanced state that our leaders are often not even leaders. There are certainly leaders that exhibit this quality of selflessly giving to others, but it is rare, because it is so difficult to remain stable in the midst of that which seems so unbalanced. So that is why Tohei Sensei’s teaching is such a gift to us. He is teaching us to practice this highest quality of human existence. And even how good you are at that is not the point. There is always someone more developed, always someone less – personal position on some kind of scale is never the point. The point is that we have this opportunity to do this practice, because of our teachers; because they brought that to us. To bring this back, when you have a sense of that, you can cut bokken at any time.

    Kiatsuho:

    This is Kiatsu class. Kiatsu means pressing with Ki. But please don’t think that that means only pressing, because if only pressing, then no Ki! Just like in anything else, there is body action of some kind. Of course that has to be. You must raise your arm and place your thumb on your partner to practice Kiatsu. But what is the body action an expression of? That’s the question. Is it an expression of your own small mind, trying to do something? Or is it an expression of the deeper sense of unity? Is it creating goodness out of badness, when someone is ill, or in a weakened condition, or injured? Do you think that this is something wrong, and you need to fix it? This is seeing only the relative world. This is seeing only chaos, where in fact there is perfect order. If you don’t see the order, then the order does not influence the other person. The other person cannot see the order, balance, harmonious universe, because of their temporary condition. If you don’t see perfection, then the patient also doesn’t see that. You know, when you feel pain, there is attachment to that area of the mind/body. So you might think that, if you are attached, in some sense your mind is strong there. But it is just very stuck there. Attachment is weakness. If mind is strong, it is free and not stuck. Mind is weak there in that sore place, so if you touch there with a free mind, then you can release this attachment.
    This is not something that you are going to explain to your partner, by the way. This is just Kiatsu. So the nature of what transpires between you, the quality or flavor of what transpires between you, carries the quality, flavor, or taste of the source of that. If it comes from your small mind, then it carries that flavor; that characteristic. It is not that it is nothing, in this case, but it’s limited. It’s not limitless. It is not infinite. It’s finite.

    By the way, when you break a bone, it is important to go to the finite doctor and have him fix the finite bone. Don’t think you can fix a broken bone with Kiatsu. It is not in the same category, exactly. But, nonetheless, once the bone is set, then the healing takes place. And healing is not just matter, but is easily influenced by mind state. So once you have the bone set, then you make Kiatsu.

    In the beginning, when we teach beginning students we teach them to extend Ki in a particular direction. In the beginning you think extend Ki is like shooting a squirt gun; “My body to your body. And in between my body and your body, my Ki goes whoom and hits you over there.” OK? So this is not actually so. It is not wrong. It is on the way to understanding. It’s just incomplete understanding. So it is not like a gun or water hose. We teach that to a beginner who is doing unbendable arm, because it is a step up from using the strength in your arm to counter someone bending it. It helps to get mind out of body only. But the more you train, the more you begin to realize, “Wait a minute, if the whole universe is filled with this Ki, if Ki pervades the universe…” Tohei Sensei says Ki is the smallest particle. You know, when you look at cell, molecule, atom, atomic particle, quark, strings, this is already beyond most of our conception. But beyond what you cannot even conceive, you cannot any longer differentiate between what we call solid matter, or a particle, and energy, or wave. In other words at some point, somehow, from this infinitely small particleness or waveness that we call Ki, finally comes matter. Every atom in the whole universe is the same. If I take an atom from a lizard toe and put it in your brain, your brain won’t know the difference. Atom is atom is atom. Molecule starts to get more specific, but not an atom. So as you go down further, smaller and smaller, there is no differentiation at all. There is only one.
    So what is the point of all that? It is very important to begin to understand how it is that Ki pervades everything. It is everything there is. So if you think, “I am going to move Ki from me to you”, this is limited thinking and a bit of a mistake. Because how can that happen? It’s already there. That is all there is in this relative world. Ki.

    So don’t think, when doing Kiatsu, of putting Ki from me to you. Don’t even think of putting Ki from universe to them. There is plenty of Ki everywhere already. The reason someone has a difficulty, is because in that part of their mind/body, there is some weakness of recognition of unification. You see? And then to make things worse, feeling that lack of unification awareness in some part of the body (this is what we call “pain”), then we put tension around that area as a protective device, and simply make things worse. So if you understand Kiatsu, what we are doing is reminding this part of the person that it is already whole and perfect and it doesn’t need to be afraid. This doesn’t mean that right there and then it is all healed. This often may take a little time.
    So don’t think of putting Ki in someone else. They are already made completely of Ki. They just temporarily forgot. You are positively acknowledging your understanding of the fundamental essence of this vast basis of life, the manifestation of which is this that we see.
    Ki is filling the relative world. Kiatsu is like reasserting the order of the universe. It is not sending something to somewhere. So keep that in mind as you are practicing.

    Question and Answer:

    Student: I have a question from the last seminar in Holland. You were talking about the “belt of anxiety”. Could you go into that just a bit more?

    Yes. Good question. This is not something Tohei Sensei teaches. I discovered this early in my own training, so I talk about it sometimes. But it very much relates to what Tohei Sensei teaches. So please forgive me if I take a moment for this.
    I think everybody knows that there is a certain tension here at the waist, almost like a belt around here. So when you practice breathing, or even meditation where you do natural breathing, always in the beginning you find some tension here. Many people, in the beginning, say it is more difficult to breathe in than to breathe out. That is because their diaphragm hits that belt of tension. When the lungs expand, the diaphragm is designed to relax down against the intestines, which in turn puts slight pressure on the inside of the perineum. This is physically not so important, but let me just say, without getting too far into it, that there is a sense of fear that we have to let go of, before this breathing can completely fulfill itself. This belt of anxiety may appear to be from many different kinds of anxiety in your daily life, but finally the base cause, or the ultimate fear, is the fear of dying. The fear of death is the fear of losing control of this life. As long as you think you have control of this life, you will be afraid of losing it; of dying. When you realize that you have no control whatsoever over this life, at the same time you can begin to let go of your fear of dying. Then throughout this life you can carry this…I can only call it a sense of infinite satisfaction. It’s like you always wanted your belly to go there, but it never would. And when it does for the first time, it is a complete understatement to say it is supremely pleasurable. And then, as understanding deepens, then it happens more and more. And at some point then you notice that this that I am calling the belt of anxiety is no longer there. Even when you are ill or have an injury, that specific discomfort may be there, but it has no real power, since you are already infinitely satisfied. And then when you have that feeling, you realize that there is no satisfaction in the relative world to compare.
    So that’s what I mean by the belt of anxiety. It’s kind of important. It’s not something we teach in Aikido directly, but it so relates to Aikido.

    Student: I had some problems with Ki Breathing. I did it for about two months, and then I began to be overwhelmed with the urge to get air.

    Yes, “Don’t let me die, God!” (laughter)

    Student: And it was not a thing I could control. My mind was completely occupied by it. It confused me so much that I couldn’t get back into the breathing. Maybe this is something like this belt of anxiety thing you are talking about?

    That’s like being afraid of having an anxiety attack, and therefore having an anxiety attack. So you know the answer to the question already.

    Student: Could I have some hints?

    Some hints? Practice more. Of course, don’t be afraid. You won’t die. Even if you tried to hold your breath, you would pass out eventually and start breathing again. You are not in charge of living and dying. That feeling is just what I explained. You said, “Maybe this is the same thing”. Yes, this is the same thing. You think that something you are doing affects your well being. And in a small sense it does. You know, from a small relative view. If you hit yourself with a hammer, it hurts. Yes. So there is some direct correlation there. But ultimately, you are not in charge. And particularly when it comes to life and death. How many times do you hear of someone having some horrible accident, and yet survives it. And yet some other person has something apparently very inconsequential, they just fall down, hit their head wrong and they die. This is unpredictable. And you notice some people are wild and unconventional, and yet seem to have things go their way, apparently. And then someone does everything perfectly by the book and dies at 45 years old of a heart attack. We are not in charge. We are not practicing magic. We are not doing any of this work to change the relative conditions of the world, including the moment of our own expiration. Only your ego thinks that sort of thing can happen. This is not the case. We practice shinpo uchu rei kanno soku genjo , just as we practice Kiatsu, to remind ourselves who is in charge (if you want to say it that way). Again, we are not making a religion here, exactly. It is just acknowledging the way this is. And the deeper your understanding of that is, the easier it is for you to practice breathing. But of course the way you get deeper understanding is to practice breathing. Haven’t I said that before? (laughter)

    Nobody’s breathing is perfect all the time. Just practice anyway. Don’t think that you will give it up for a while and come back to it. It doesn’t get better that way. It gets worse. Don’t ever back away like that. Just do the practice.

    Student: You talk about seeing who you really are. What if, when you do see who you really are, you don’t like who you really are?

    This is a mistake. This is a misunderstanding. I will try to explain. Your relative character, or personality, the one with your name, has characteristics, some of which you might like, some not, as you discover them. That is inconsequential, since that is not who you truly are. You are thinking, I need to find out who Tony is. Tony is the relative personality that includes the small mind and body. But that is not who you are. You are the one who can see that small mind and body. You are the one who can discover and observe these characteristics. We sometimes call this one the “subject” or the “witness”. So when I say, “Please discover who you really are”, you have to discriminate; you have to discern; you have to sit. But it doesn’t have to be an esoteric, special, “spiritual” thing. The meditations we show, and others you have heard of, were developed by teachers to help us do this very thing. You can sit at the dock at the ocean and do it as far as I am concerned. It doesn’t matter. It is just that when your eyes are open and things are happening around you, you tend to become interested in those things. So you may tend to forget your mission. Therefore if you close your eyes, and it’s very quiet; the birds haven’t started yet and it is very quiet; that’s the time. This is just because there is less distraction. There doesn’t have to be any magic power in sitting before the sun rises. It is just common sense.
    So this is not necessarily something to do with me, or Suzuki Sensei, or Tohei Sensei, really. None of us made this up. It doesn’t have to do with Aikido really any more than any authentic path. This is what is the authentic path of being. If you are doing some practice that does not include this, then it is fine, but it is not what we would call “authentic”. It’s not in other words, the real deal. So I am always wanting to remind people that this Ki-Aikido teaching from Tohei Sensei is designed to facilitate this realization happening. That is ultimately what it is all about, not something else. So let’s remember that this is authentic path, and that is what it is about. Please enjoy every aspect of the training. Don’t just go sit in the corner only. You need to balance your life or you go crazy. But at the same time don’t think, “Oh maybe I’ll wait till later when it will be easier”, or “Yeah, but Curtis is 60 years old”. No. I started sitting when I was 19 years old. I have been sitting all of my adult life. And I am just scratching the surface, believe me. So don’t hesitate. Don’t be satisfied with anything less than the real deal.

    Everybody has a question. Not a lot of questions, but a single question. But you have to become ripe with it, like a fruit, before you can ask that question. It is a very important question. You can ask me, and I might be able to help a little, but you have to be ready to hear the answer. That’s what I mean when I say you have to become ripe. All the other questions you ask are preludes to this one, final, important, ready to be picked question.

    Student: I’m ripe. Pick me! (laughter) You say that we are not in charge?

    Yes. We cannot control what happens to us.

    Student: But we know that if we behave in a certain way we get good karma. And if we behave in another way we get bad karma. Is this not true?

    Yes. Even Jesus said “You will reap what you sew”. If you put tomato seed in the ground, don’t expect to get cherries. This is common sense.
    So what was the question?

    Student: If you behave maybe you get better tomatoes.

    If you behave, you will better enjoy eating the tomatoes! Just be sure you are not talking about magic. If I love my friend, then things are better because to love another makes me feel good. You might love an enemy. Don’t expect the enemy to turn around and say, “I love you too”. The quality of what goes out, certainly effects what comes in. We say, “The best fertilizer is a farmer’s footsteps in his field”. Caring does matter.
    I guess you are asking, can you control your future by not being a bad girl now, so people won’t be bad to you later. Is that accurate? OK.

    I said earlier that there is only one choice we can make. And that choice is to keep one point or not (i.e. to love or not). We have a conscience inside of us that holds the rules. This contains all of society’s rules. It says if you do this you are a good girl and if you do that you are a bad girl. When you think of karma you think that this justifies that. But the problem is that society doesn’t have any real idea of what is going on. And what is bad to you might be good to me. What is bad to you might be good to the person in the next lifetime that you come back as. Like how do you know, if in fact your choices are only conditioned responses…? So when you get right down to it, only the quality of, or source of, an act is what matters. And the quality is determined by whether or not you make that one choice; keeping One Point. It is not whether I do this ritual or that ritual. or whether I eat meat or don’t eat meat. Those choices we are conditioned to respond to. When I go stay with the Dutch, they have a different set of conditioned responses in terms of food, than the Germans, or the Hawaiians. Each place I go has a different culture and a differing set of what they think is appropriate, sometimes quite the opposite of each other. And these are not just small things, like food, but much bigger, moral issues. What is appropriate? “How do I decide which group to follow? Should I be a Buddhist, or a Christian, or Jew, or Muslim, or Scientologist? Or maybe I’ll just say never mind and do Aikido.” Those are conditioned responses. When you feel drawn to something, that is because your conditioning brought you to that point. So you then have a ripeness in that sense.
    But I talked about the “authentic path”. There is only one authentic path. It’s not Buddhism, Christianity, Aikido, and so on. It is just the practice. And every single authentic pursuit from the beginning of time does this practice. That’s the only practice there is. It’s obviously expressed in many different ways, but it comes down to this simple practice. I just try to make it as simple and non-religious as I can. Just simple. Just do the practice.
    You might think that I am not answering your question, but I am in the way that I can right now. There are other things to be said, but it’s not maybe the time or place to say them.
    I think that, for you, you want to remember to not concern yourself so much with comparing this or that or the other thing. Just do the practice. And if you have some question about how you should be in some instance, then just keep One Point. Works every time.

    Sometimes in Aikido I might come out with little demonstrations and explanations of why something works and why something else doesn’t. Tohei Sensei was famous for that, and this is the way we teach, and so I do that too. But the bottom line is that all these aspects of Aikido are designed to lead us to the core practice of being one with the universe, so just come to the dojo and do the practice correctly.

    If you think about it, all questions are “Look, can you help me because this thing is standing in the way of my practice”. In answering the question, my main concern is to help you to unravel the attachment, so you can be free to just practice. This is what I mean by that one, final, question. What is that ultimate thing standing in the way for you, and how, precisely, would you express that fundamental angst?
    As you can easily see, by design this teaching doesn’t leave much “wiggle room” for you. If you want to make a teaching really popular and get a lot of students, then design one that leaves a lot of wiggle room. Because most people are looking for wiggle room. Most people are not looking for the practice, even though they may say they are. They are looking for permission to avoid the practice. Of course everyone wants to have the results of the practice, but they would like to not have to do all the work. Actually, I don’t care what you do, but don’t do it as avoidance; do it as a celebration from the perspective of the practice. Everything is OK. Everything is fine. But how you do it is everything. This is the “hidden” teaching that is so difficult to understand.

    Student: Sensei, you spoke about making your life sacred, and I have been thinking that when I think of something as being sacred, I think of something outside of myself.

    Of course, everything is an object, including your own person. In that way, everything is an extension of you. Anything that the witness can perceive is an object. So please allow all those objects to be sacred, by recognizing your own sacredness. But first you have to know who “You” are. If you recognize who you are, then you already recognize that everything is sacred. What I mean by sacred is infinitely qualified as True. There is nothing outside of this. In the beginning we practice discrimination and identify the characteristics and aspects of the whole picture. Self and other/ subject and object. This is duality. Then at some point, just like when we progress through the three layers of Ki Breathing, we recognize that all these objects are manifestations of mind, through Ki. Sometimes, teachers say “manifested through light”, but this is the same thing. It is bio-energy, light, Ki, Prana, Chi, etc. same thing.
    And then, ultimately there is no difference between self and other. When we experience this, we call this stage non-dual. Tohei Sensei says “one with the universe”. “You will see that you are the universe and the universe is you”. Non-dual. But that’s not the end. Because in the non-dual state you only find equanimity. In that condition, you don’t really care whether someone is starving or not. Because there are no objects there; there is no “other”. So finally you have to come back to duality, recognize it, and live in the world, and be an effective representative of the non-dual. We call this dual/non-dual. This is living with passion and equanimity at the same time. And at that point everything is sacred, AND you can live within it as not separate from it. In the dual world that you describe, some things are sacred and some are not. In the non-dual world all things are sacred, but there is no interaction with it because there is only one. Only in dual/non-dual do you see all things as sacred and interact with them at the same time. Then this is the practice.
    It always comes back to that.

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    Nice transript of the lecture. Thanks for posting it.
    dave lok
    aikido bushin
    www.spokanedojo.com

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