“The Art of Peace begins with you. Work on yourself and your appointed task in the Art of Peace. Everyone has a spirit that can be refined, a body that can be trained in some manner, a suitable path to follow. You are here for no other purpose than to realize your inner divinity and manifest your innate enlightenment. Foster peace in your own life and then apply the Art to all that you encounter.”
Morihei Ueshiba, “The Art of Peace: Teachings of the Founder of Aikido”
AIKIDO – development of awareness
The path or rather the development of awareness has its natural set of elements that in most cases lead on from each other in the following sequence:
1. Forgiveness and compassion
Forgiving oneself and others all that has come to pass regardless of it being based on conscious or unconscious actions, assumes a state without the ego, when emotions and thoughts about oneself as an individual harmonise with the mind as a whole. Then, even for a single moment, one comprehends the inherent unity, followed by a total lack of differences between people. It is the very experience of such unity that is at the base of forgiveness.
Compassion assumes that a certain part of one's own mind harmonises with another part and then with the mind as a whole.
Through forgiveness and compassion one realises love as awareness.
The first level of awareness in aikido, where there is no opponent but rather a partner, expresses one's relationship with oneself. This primary experience of one's own existence (“I”, “I am”, “I exist”) is the source of duality (“yes-no”, “positive-negative”, “good-bad”…) and so it gives rise to concepts such as:
the individual – as someone who is separate from others, which in itself is false, since others are only a projection of ourselves
the world (the surroundings) – as something objective (given as it is), which again, is nothing but a projection of an individual mind.
While practising with a partner, one should always keep in mind the following:
to accept ourselves as we are, without judging ourselves, or comparing and competing with others…
to accept one's partner as they are, with all their faults and virtues (if there are indeed such things), without wanting to change them. It should always be remembered that one's partner is only one's own projection based on one's learned concept of being an individual separate from others.
to feel our partner (“to know partner's mind”), which means harmonising one's vibrations with them, which is nothing but harmonising within oneself.
If one acts in this way, the “exchange” (movement) of vibrations as the emotional and the thinking process with the partner turns into a spontaneous process of development of awareness, or rather of development of self-knowledge – love.
In this way, through forgiveness and compassion, one's partner becomes an “instrument” for one's own self-knowledge, or rather for development of one's awareness.
“Why does the sage adhere to One
And becomes an example to the world?
. . .
Because he offers no resistance
None in the world can resist him.”
2. Stopping the thinking
When practicing various forms of meditation, one experiences moments in which one becomes free of thinking. The mind, through an unbroken process of “the need to think”, creates its own identity (“I think”, “I have a problem”, “I exist”, “I am”, “I remember”, “I wish”…) By stopping the thinking one breaks the attachment to one's own identity (which in itself is false) and to an experience of separateness from other people, and ultimately from Reality.
The second level of awareness in aikido is purification of the mind (also including the purification of the body), which begins with the selection of thoughts and emotions, and ends in freedom from thinking.
Through the correct execution of techniques one stimulates a gradual purification of the mind.
Through correctly executing the techniques with one's full (total) awareness the mind gets purified. Concentrating on a particular technique (especially one of the basic ones…), in the sense of “having an awareness of it”, does not mean to repeat it XX number of times until it becomes an “automatic subconscious reaction” – this will only strengthen the subconscious. On the contrary, repetition (multiple, continuous) is necessary. It needs, however, to be executed always with complete “presence” – i.e. awareness in every move.
Awareness of movement presupposes the following:
- Correct movement (position of arms and legs, trunk, balance…), while working with and using the force of gravity, and in the greater sense the omnipresent energy of the universe. If the body is relaxed, there is balance and awareness. This allows the force of the universe to purify the body by ridding it of toxins and destructive emotions and thoughts and so prepares the body for a maximal release of energetic functions of the cells (a so called process of osmosis) through the use of the universal force (“the force of heaven and earth”).
One should bear in mind that it is possible for the body to attain relaxation of tendons and muscles on its own, spontaneously, only up to a certain degree, after which it becomes necessary to complete this process through the use of a suitable mental affirmation in order to allow the energy to flow freely.
- Correct breathing essentially means to inhale with awareness, which when mentally directed to the area just above the pubic bone (hara) will generate energy there. This energy is then directed out during the exhalation (with awareness) in the direction of the movement. During this it is important to have the awareness of the wholeness of mind. On this note, it must be said that for some techniques it is not possible to accurately define the breathing pattern, as these require it to unfold “naturally” (spontaneously).
Note: It is the breath that dictates the movement and not vice versa! After some time this becomes a spontaneous action regardless of the situation.
- Awareness of movement is the actual knowledge of the movement, but primarily it is the knowledge (the awareness) of the direction of the movement of energy and what this energy produces, or rather what its effects are. The basic movement of energy in aikido is spiral in nature. Its effect is to correct any instabilities and lack of balance in the yin-yang ratio in individual organs and the body as a whole. More importantly the spiral movement of energy purifies the mind, primarily through harmonizing the left and the right brain hemisphere and through stimulating the internal secretion glands (the pituitary gland, the pineal gland…), which produce important hormones that effect the state of one's mind, such as endorphins, oxytocin, etc.
The use of the muscle power should be minimal. It should be just enough to initiate the movement, which in each moment need be as spontaneous as possible, while following the breath. When this is achieved, the energy flows in a spiral direction. The result is the awareness of one's own emotional and mental currents, arising from the awareness of one's own presence. Thus the mind gets purified attaining full maturity, or rather full awareness in the moments where the thought flow patterns get cut off – the state without thoughts.
It also must be said that during practice one should not insist to maintain a desire to stop the thinking, as that will almost inevitably meet with failure – the very attachment to the goal of attaining the “thoughtless state“ will prevent it.
“The old poem says:
To think: “I wish not to think”
Also is rooted in one's thoughts.
Simply seize thinking about not thinking”
Takuan Soho, Zen, (1573-1645)
While performing any technique, a certain “seriousness” is required, or rather a conscious intention, because if this sort of awareness is not there or is insufficient, the mind will wander and its confusion grow, and so it will become “polluted” with excess emotions, thoughts and experiences.
The mind creates silence as a form, arising spontaneously as a result of classifying emotions and thoughts. This happens firstly through selective thinking and memory (eliminating the superfluous emotions, thoughts and memories), and then through temporary breaks in thinking when, in the periods of total absence of the thoughts and mental currents, one “enters” a state of silence where the experience of silence is the only one that remains – it's total.
In silence all of one's senses are switched on, and the silence itself is “heard” with the whole mind.
The third level of awareness in aikido is the transformation of the senses, primarily that of sight, touch and hearing. Gradual transformation of the senses means reduction, and eventually the exclusion of physical sensory receptors of Vibrations so that the information arrives as direct perception. In practice this is achieved through:
development of intuition, which represents the fusion of perception of the situation, the acquired up to date experience and the knowledge (awareness) of a given spontaneous reaction;
observing the partner firstly with one's organ of sight (eyes), and following this immediately after with observing him/her with one's “brain” so to speak, through a so called third eye, as if looking through a “spy hole” in the door. The focus here is onto the eyes of the partner and roughly the area where their third eye is located.
After this one enters the state of silence where one's partner is recognized as one's own projection
Transformation of the senses can also be instigated by visualizing the space in which one practices. Gradually, this visualisation grows into an awareness of the space where one watches as if “from above” both – one's own and partner's bodies as they move in the space.
The essence is to carry the silence over, without exiting from it.
Emptiness is also a state of mind. It is a state where the mind is still present (aware of itself), and yet it remains undisturbed – thoughts and emotions as processes seize to appear. In the state of emptiness the total mind (total awareness) knows (is aware) of its own wholeness.
Different from silence, which arises spontaneously as a result of channeling and quietening the mind, emptiness is the whole mind's awareness of itself as one single unity – an absolute singular. Then there is a total awareness of the state without emotions and without thoughts – a so called awareness of emptiness.
The fourth level of awareness in aikido is the awareness of emptiness.
“If we observe from the martial art perspective (fencing), the mind must not be fixed on the hand holding the sword. Completely forget about the hand wielding the sword, strike and hit the opponent. The mind is not directed toward the opponent. The opponent is Emptiness. I am Emptiness. The hand holding the sword and the very sword are Emptiness. Understand this, but do not let your mind become trapped by Emptiness.
. . .
…In handling the sword in a given moment of time one needs a bolt of lightning in order to strike and in such a moment there are neither thoughts nor the mind. For it is that while the sword strikes the mind is not (there). Because within me who is about to be stricken, there is no mind. The attacker is Emptiness, his sword is Emptiness. I, who is about to be attacked, am in fact Emptiness.
. . .
If this is so, then the man attacking me is in fact not a man. The sword used is not a sword. As for me – the person about to be cut down – like with a flash of lightning, it will be as if one cuts a soft breeze as it blows across the spring sky.
. . .
Even if you do not forget a single move, even if you think about the positions and the movements of hands and feet and perform the whole dance accurately, this still does not mean that you are artful. If the mind stops in the hand or the foot, no move you perform will be in sync. Unless you fully let go of the mind, everything you do will be of mediocre quality.”
Takuan Soho, Zen, (1573-1645)
“In order to attain perfect emptiness,
Remain diligent in stillness.”
5. Letting go
At first, surrendering unfolds as a partial process of harmonising a single emotion or thought, or rather a group of emotions or thoughts with another single emotion or thought, or rather a group of emotions or thoughts – a so called partial flow. Then the process of harmonization expands until it encompasses the whole mind, i.e. all emotions and thoughts – a “complete flow”. Awareness accompanies this process of the gradual harmonizing of singular emotions and thoughts as well as groups thereof, until their complete harmonization is achieved. Then the complete letting go takes place accompanied by complete awareness.
The fifth level of awareness in aikido is letting go.
Each move (or technique) in aikido has its own basic idea – the idea of movement, which consists of:
The goal, which defines the intention contained in the movement. At its base is activation of one's own “inner energy”, but also the channeling of the inner energy of one's partner as well, for the purpose of unity (that is why to most people who are simply observing two or more aikidokas it would appear that they are performing a perfectly rehearsed, choreographed set of moves).
The method, which defines a way of execution of the move. Every move in aikido is essentially circular, spiral, or rather ellipsoid. Aikidokas (aikido practitioners) always create circles, spirals and ellipses, all of which are actually spirals in their simplified form. The spiral movement in itself brings about the greater connectedness between the left and right brain hemispheres, strengthening and amplifying the impulses of the brain's joining tissues (commissures). This primarily takes place via corpus callosum, the association and the projection tracts.
The spiral movement, which in itself is above all other movement (meaning that all other types of movement, such as up-down, back-front, left-right, etc. – in other words linear, are already contained in the spiral movement), leads to a mutual harmonisation (optimising) of the different energy levels in each cell, organ and most importantly in the body as a whole (primarily that of yin and yang). Practically each individual part of the body with its own unique vibration is being harmonized with every other part, and so the body as a whole becomes a fine tuned “instrument” that performs like a well rehearsed orchestra.
When energetic harmonisation links in with awareness (the knowledge of the process) as a singular simultaneous process, one gradually begins to enter into a so called flow state.
- State of a conscious letting go and of self-forgetfulness, where the only thing that remains is the unity of awareness and body harmony, manifested in the perfection of movement. Many aikidokas had a sense, even if only for a brief moment, of having executed a certain move perfectly. Providing that they have accompanied it with the full knowledge (awareness) of it, they have momentarily entered the flow state.
It should be noted that being relaxed and letting go are not the same concepts in aikido. Being relaxed is already contained in letting go. To be relaxed in aikido means to channel the emotional, mental and physical currents (accentuating individuality, i.e. “I am relaxed”) so that the energy flow remains unobstructed. Letting go, on the other hand, assumes unity of individual and Universal energy, so that the only thing that remains is “unity”.
“When you start to merge with the Universe, creation arises.”
“Aikido, the path of love – thoughts and ideas of Morihei Ueshiba”
Odin, Belgrade 2002, pg 9.
In the state of letting go the energy of the Universe circulates – or better still it constitutes – freely. Aikidoka then becomes a conductor of energy, and also he/she is the energy, as then the difference between the individual energy (i.e. the person) and that of the Universe seizes to exist. At that moment the partner relationship between two or more aikidokas also seizes to exist and, speaking from energetic perspective, they become one. Heaven and earth merge in the hara point from where they, again – viewed energetically, firstly spread throughout the whole body, and beyond it in all directions (like an expanding sphere) continually growing: filling the dojo, the whole neighborhood, and on,... and on…, bringing “peace into the heart and joy into the soul”.
Entering the state of flow happens at first only in brief moments, and then its duration gradually increases until it becomes aikidoka's normal state during training, and then – even more importantly – it starts to permeate all aspects aikidoka's life, outside the dojo walls, thus becoming a way of life – a life path.
Through existing in the state of flow over a longer period of time one spontaneously opens up to the possibility of surrendering. The ideas such as: energy of the Universe, the Universe and so on, then become open concepts to which each one surrenders individually, bearing in mind that such complexities can not be expressed in words since they lie beyond the mind's cognitive capacities.
The sixth level in aikido is surrendering.
Through aikido one opens oneself to the possibility of developing three aspects of awareness:
the first, self-observation which encompasses the observation of appearance, duration and disappearance of emotions and thoughts, where the whole of mind observes its own wholeness and its component parts as processes within itself, i.e. the mind.
the second, observing other people and the surroundings, where the very development of consciousness leads one toward an insight into the nature of all people and everything around them as the mere projections of their own selves. This very fact allows a master to be “in control” of the situation in and outside of the dojo. Such a one sees all people in oneself and oneself in others, just as he/she sees their whole environment (the world) in themselves and themselves in each and every thing.
the third, accepting the existence of that which lies “beyond the mind's cognitive abilities”, or rather of the one source of manifested world. Whether this is called the Universal Principle, the Universe, the Absolute, the Reality, the Tao, etc, is not important. Surrendering to that something, which can not be defined, which has not a beginning nor an end, just as O'Sensei had done, whether in the dojo, or in the temples, or some secluded place away from the prying eyes, gives the breath of the spiritual essence in its entirety into the art of aikido. In this way, aikido has originally been a martial art, then the art of channeling energy and finally a spiritual path – a path of self-realisation, a path of self-accomplishment.
As O'Sensei entered his forties, the light that engulfed him in the moments of surrendering, and which remained with him from then on, is essentially the awareness that all is within him: primarily time and space, and then all else in the manifested world – the people and everything in his environment.
It was in fact the very surrender, which by the way could have only ever been complete, that had led him towards a complete removal of all doubts about his own existence, towards apperceiving his own and everyone and everything else's divine essence.
Through surrender one removes the very last doubt about the existence of an enemy-opponent, and even of a partner, about all these being only mind's delusions based on its dualistic functioning. And so aikido becomes discovered as an instrument, but also as a path of realisation of Truth through awareness, thus enabling the total awareness, which is identical to the total love – this being the knowledge about oneself.
7. Awareness of the present moment
Total awareness implies the mind that has been transcended, or rather it implies such a quality of apperception that is able to differentiate between the Reality (which is not possible to define) and the manifestation as a play of the mind (and as such can be defined since it unfolds within time and space, which are the elements of the mind). Awareness of the present moment breaks down an illusion one has of oneself as being individual while at the same time constituting a serene mind as well as a consciously engaged mind.
The seventh level in aikido is awareness of the present moment.
This aikido principle (also found in thai chi, yoga, zen…) is crucial, because it speaks of the awareness, or rather of the knowledge of connectedness between:
Reality and manifestations,
Infinite and finite,
Consciousness and awareness,
Universal principle and concrete expression,
Past and future,
Spiritual and material, etc.
Awareness of the present moment informs the nature of man, meaning it defines the way by which man manifests – i.e. his Divine, or Universal nature.
Awareness of the present moment includes:
total mind (“a mind knows it's just a mind”)
the knowledge of oneself as a manifestation
the reciprocal harmonisation of individual emotions and thoughts, and their harmonisation with the whole mind.
Awareness of the present moment leads onto a spontaneous realization of:
serene mind: constantly differentiating Reality from illusion; and
consciously engaged mind: where emotions and thoughts are being emitted spontaneously, while vibrationally remaining equal to the vibration of the whole mind.
Serene and consciously engaged mind is a spontaneous product of the development of consciousness, and so when one achieves the total awareness within the practical application of the art, one is able to achieve all, since all is only a projection of individual mind.
“There is a saying: Remove yourself from the past-present border. Not to free the mind from events past, nor to allow the traces of present mind to remain – both of these are bad. This means one must act (in fencing – strike) at the exact moment between the past and the present (moment).”
Takuan Soho, Zen, (1573-1645)
The master of aikido who has achieved the total awareness knows that there was never any battle, nor was there any preparation or training. That which others experience through the senses – the virtuosity of movement, the constitution of energy…, the master knows as being a mere play of the mind based on the concept of one's existence as an individual.
“He who thinks This (Atman) as slayer and he who believes This to be slain are both ignorant. This neither slays nor is ever slain.”
Bhagavad-Gita, chapter 2, text 19
And yet, the curious mind asks: is it all really like this? What is the goal and the purpose of aikido?
O'Sensei's life and work stands as a legacy and a proof of his total awareness and more so of the gift it presents to the world – that of a truly remarkable art form. An art form that transcends itself – aikido is a path and a way of life. It is a way of redirecting the mind towards one's own inner source – a path of self-realisation. Its techniques are the very instruments for carrying out this self-search, and a method for reaching the Truth.
. . .
Each and every manifestation (of Consciousness) is in itself a duality, since it is the mind that, which allows for that manifestation to take form in the first place. Aikido transcends this duality of the mind through its spiral movements, practice of forms and the process of self-discovery through partner work.
The world which exists and which appears to surround us only exists in our consciousness, and our realisation of it through the senses only takes place thanks to the duality of the mind. With appearance and disappearance of duality – the world appears and disappears.
Awareness, being the knowledge of: a) one's own identity in relation to one's surroundings, and b) the surroundings in relation to one's identity, is based on duality and as such, at its very base, is false.
Turning the mind towards itself, for the purpose of seeking the Truth from which consciousness and awareness spring will yield the answer if only we were to find that which is unchangeable, unexplainable…
Translated by: Dušan Gruičić
Dušan Đurović Novi Sad, MMVII, VIII